Last-minute buyers gear up for busiest shopping day of the year

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After days in which their shop fronts have been bound with snow, retailers are hoping for a shower of last-minute present-buyers on what is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year.

Following a festive trading period that has been ravaged by the near-Arctic conditions, stores have launched a deluge of sales to attract eleventh-hour shoppers.

Visa Europe alone expects to process about 26.5 million transactions on its cards today worth more than £1.2bn, which equates to consumers spending an average of £833,000 every minute, or nearly £14,000 a second.

In particular, an army of unprepared men will form a significantly higher proportion of those splashing the cash today.

David Barford, the director of selling operations at John Lewis, the department store, said: "Men have been out in force this week buying last-minute presents in lingerie and beauty. But it's lingerie where sales have really soared."

About 750,000 male shoppers are expected to flood into London's West End, according to the New West End Company. The organisation, which represents 600 retailers in the area, forecasts that men will spend about £75m today and tomorrow alone, contributing to a total spend of £600m in the West End this week.

The heavy snow that started falling at the end of last week – following similar blizzards at the start of the month – has already played havoc with festive trading during the so-called "golden quarter", when retailers make the bulk of their annual profits. It is not yet clear whether retailers will be able to recover sales lost to the snow in the days before, and after, Christmas.

Gift ideas: Don't panic – there's still time

Jet Pack Buzz Lightyear

The third Toy Story film was a box-office sensation in June. With laser arm lights, movie phrases, and a retractable helmet, the Buzz Lightyear toy was nearly as popular as the film. Breaking with all the usual Christmas traditions, it's actually still available to buy.

Available Sainsbury's, £39.99. For local stockists, see Tel: 020 7695 6000

Perfect for Children, big and small

Mad Men box set

Hard-drinking, 50-cigarettes-a-day man Don Draper grabbed the attention of the nation in 2010. If you missed out on the doings of the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce agency the first three series are available on DVD.

Available HMV, £34.99;; 0845 901 1122

Perfect for Culture vultures

Julian messenger bag

Useful and chic, messenger bags are popular with everyone from students to businessmen. Mantaray's bag, which is exclusive to Debenhams, comes in a beautifully understated brown and has an extensible strap and three inner compartments. What's more, Debenhams has already started its sale, so you'll get 20 per cent off.

Available Debenhams, £60;; 08445 61 61 61

Perfect for Stylish cyclists

Libby T Designs mini Ophelia alpaca wool hot water bottle

Possibly the cosiest, snuggliest way to keep warm this winter. This hottie from Libby T Designs features a chevron pattern. But it's the softness of the cover, made from baby alpaca wool, which will be appreciated during chilly nights. Hand-knitted in the UK, each hot water bottle has a hand-tied ribbon and a label signed by the actual knitter.

Available £45, John Lewis; 08456 049 049

Perfect for Cold bodies

Xbox 360 4GB console with Kinect sensor pack

A big investment for a last-minute purchase, but if you want your panic buy to create a smile, these are on many a Christmas wish list. The Kinect takes gaming to a whole new level: your body is the remote control so you can dance, practise yoga and take part in action adventures without leaving home.

Available Asda, £234;; 0845 260 2777

Perfect for Closet gamers

Kshocolat hamper

For foodie chocolate lovers, this hamper ranges from tried-and-tested flavours such as milk chocolate honeycomb to more unusual combinations: lemon and pepper white chocolate, anyone? A true feast in pleasing packaging, this gift is just the thing for the sweet-toothed.

Available Debenhams, £28.50;; 08445 61 61 61

Perfect for Those with a sweet tooth

The Book of Idle Pleasures

An antidote to the gadgetry of Christmas. This compendium of pleasures will appeal to all those stressed out by their 21st-century "Crackberry" lifestyle – and in need of some idling. From skimming stones to catching falling leaves, doodling and gazing out of windows, this book will appeal to all the dreamers out there.

Available £10.99, Waterstone's;; 0845 217 2920

Perfect for Slow movers