Sunday shoppers go for broke

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MIKE, who sells The Big Issue magazine and watches the world go by from his regular pitch outside Debenhams in Oxford Street, is an expert on customer flow, writes Topaz Amoore.

'Oh yes, there are definitely more bods on the move than last Sunday,' he said knowledgeably. 'I saw two coaches crammed with shoppers parking round the back earlier.

'More carrier bags in their hands too,' he continued. 'They're more focused than the Saturday customers; they've really come to buy. You've got to want to go shopping on a Sunday to make all that effort.'

Were they any more generous to Mike, whose magazine is sold by the homeless as a money-making venture? 'Nope.'

Sunday opening was paying off for many shops in Oxford Street yesterday. John Lewis, which disapproves of Sunday trading, was shut. So legions of disappointed customers were tumbling instead into Debenhams and D H Evans.

'Thank God we get paid double-time on Sundays,' panted a Debenhams shop assistant as she successfully sold pounds 112-worth of cosmetics to a camel-coated man. 'It's hellish busy in the afternoon. The mornings are quieter. Perhaps everyone's in church,' she added doubtfully.

Shops exclusively selling clothes were less popular: Kookai was deserted just after lunchtime; the girl serving in Next claimed it had been busy, while not looking rushed off her feet. Crowd barriers left over from Saturday outside Hamleys on Regent Street were redundant.

The Body Shop's decision to open on pre-Christmas Sundays is obviously designed to dilute the Christmas Eve crush, caused by thousands of desperate people plumping for last-minute bottles of raspberry ripple bubble bath.

'It's not as bad as Saturdays, but it's still hairy,' was the verdict of one assistant, sizing up a nine-strong queue at the till.

'One lady got to the till and seemed to think I had 20 minutes spare to hear about Commander Tim Laurence's Jewish antecedents. Perhaps on a Monday morning . . . but not now]'

(Photograph omitted)