Record spree at the sales may not save major chains, warn retail experts


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The Independent Online

Tills rang out as Britain's high streets continued to enjoy bumper sales after a record-breaking Boxing Day rush – but experts said the spree may not be enough to revive struggling stores.

The number of Boxing Day shoppers was 21 per cent higher than last year, with stores desperate to cash in after a dismal year offering unprecedented discounts. Crowds built further yesterday and up to 12 million people were expected to spend more £2.5bn as chains that were closed on Boxing Day, such as John Lewis, resumed trading.

But the retail sector has suffered a bleak year in which the squeeze on consumer spending was compounded by the rise in VAT to 20 per cent and the warm autumn weather, which hit sales of winter clothing. Anita Manan, an analyst at Experian, said: "With the quarterly rent due, the difficulty is that they are selling a lot of stock at very low prices. It remains to be seen if this quarter's takings are enough to see them through."

La Senza, which has 146 stores, plans to enter administration and Blacks Leisure, which owns 98 Blacks outlets and 208 Millets stores, has fuelled speculation that it may follow suit.