Last-minute rush boosts Christmas sales

Retailers are enjoying another hectic day as consumers hampered by bad weather grab their last chance to buy for Christmas.







Stores were prepared for panic-buying on the high street after the worst winter weather in 100 years forced many to postpone shopping trips in the run-up to Christmas Day.



Some retailers have already started sales, most of them online, with many more promising huge reductions via their websites from midnight tonight.



Robert Hall, director of Milton Keynes mall thecentre:mk, said footfall figures yesterday topped last year's peak, with today also expected to set a new record.



He said: "This is a crucial time for retailers, and with so many shoppers disappointed by delivery of their online goods, and considering the impact of the weather earlier this week, it is no surprise that shoppers are out in their droves and spending well.



"Traditionally Christmas Eve shopping is about food, but this year we are expecting today to be another record day of footfall growth and spending across all the retail brands, particularly as many retailers have opted to start their sales earlier than expected."



John Lewis said it expected another busy day following "strong footfall" yesterday.



David Barford, director of selling operations, said: "We predict more of the same right up to the end of shopping hours on Christmas Eve. This is largely driven by the last-minute nature of many male customers."



While today may be the last chance to buy before Christmas, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it was unlikely to top yesterday as many stores had shorter opening hours.



Spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said: "After the disruption of December, retailers will be hoping that all of this week they have very good business.



"For people who couldn't get out last weekend, a lot of offices are closed on Christmas Eve so there's definitely an opportunity for them to get out and do some Christmas shopping."



Trade could also be booming for retailers on Christmas Day itself as analysts predict shoppers could spend more than £150 million online for the first time this year.



An estimated 4.8 million people are expected to spend around £153 million on the day, according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).



And Boxing Day spending could top £300 million for the first time, it said.



The figures are backed by payments company Visa Europe, which estimates that 960,000 transactions worth £36 million will be made on Visa cards alone on Christmas Day, with Visa transactions accounting for more than £1 in every £4 spent.



IMRG managing director David Smith said: "Christmas Day has become a busy online shopping day in recent years, as people with an eye for value look to take advantage of the 24/7 nature of online retail."



Steve Perry, commercial director at Visa Europe, added: "The lure of early Christmas sales this year will see record numbers of people heading online on Christmas Day to snap up bargains, and we expect online purchases to make up half of all the Visa card transactions we will process on that day."

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