£1m per minute spent in record shopping spree

Crowds shrug off the economic doom and gloom to flock to high street stores in search of last-minute Christmas bargains

A last-minute rush in shops, on roads and at airports saw Britons battle faulty bridges, delayed deliveries and a catastrophic goose-fat shortage as the country prepared to celebrate an unseasonably mild Christmas.

Retailers spoke of a "frenzy", predominantly by men, as weeks of sales finally lured shoppers out in force to take advantage of early discounts of up to 80 per cent off some items.

Visa said it anticipated 33 million transactions yesterday, with £1.5bn changing hands – the equivalent of £1m a minute – making it the UK's busiest shopping day ever, despite the prevailing economic gloom.

The spending rush is predicted to peak between midday and 1pm today, with stores drafting in thousands of extra staff to cope with demand.

In London's West End, queues formed outside John Lewis, Hamleys and Marks & Spencer from first light. Stores expected a million shoppers through their doors again today.

Many stayed open until midnight last night to take advantage of the belated spending spree.

At Manchester's Trafford Centre, 600 buses have arrived every day this week with shoppers from all over northern England.

Bluewater shopping centre in Kent expected to have received around 750,000 customers between 20 and 23 December. Early trading did not go without hiccups. At Marks & Spencer on London's Oxford Street, there were tense scenes as supplies of goose fat ran out and customers were urged to make do with duck fat to baste their roast potatoes.

Fortnum & Mason had to offer refunds and apologise to its well-heeled customers after IT problems delayed deliveries following a 300 per cent rise in transactions in December.

The brisk trading came as a welcome relief to high streets, which have endured a lacklustre run-up to the festive season.

However, the British Retail Consortium warned that discounting could not mask the economy's deeper woes as consumers continue to pay off more on credit cards than they spend.

It was a different story online. The Interactive Media in Retail Group, an e-retail association, forecast £186m of internet purchases on Christmas Day, doubling to £368m on Boxing Day – 12 per cent up on last year.

The weather is also in stark contrast to 2010. Temperatures are expected to hit 14C on Christmas Day, just short of the 1896 record of 15.6C.

Chris Burton, a MeteoGroup forecaster, said: "We're expecting no snow at all. The only chance of snow is Friday night and Saturday morning in the mountains of Scotland. But as it warms up and rain increases, that snow will disappear."

While last year's travellers battled through ice and blizzards to make it to their destinations, there were the more traditional foes of rain and traffic jams to contend with yesterday.

The AA said it anticipated 18 million cars taking to the roads. Repair works on the Hammersmith flyover caused a major headache to Londoners seeking to leave the capital and head west on the M4.

A serious structural defect has been found and it will remain shut until at least early January, according to Transport for London.

Traffic was heavy on traditional blackspots such as the M1, A1, M25 and M5. The Highways Agency said 19 sets of roadworks and lane restrictions had been removed to ease congestion and will not resume until the new year.

Meanwhile, Gatwick reported its busiest day of the year, with 100,000 passengers. Heathrow said it had 205,700 passengers.

More than 4.25 million people are expected to travel abroad between 16 December and 3 January, compared with less than four million last year.

The most popular destinations are New York, Dubai, Dublin, Amsterdam and Paris.

In Numbers

£1m

Estimated amount British shoppers spent each minute yesterday

18m

Estimated number of cars on the road in 24 hours before Christmas Day

14C

Top temperature tomorrow – one of the warmest Christmases ever

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
RuPaul interview: The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head

RuPaul interview

The drag star on being inspired by Bowie, never fitting in, and saying the first thing that comes into your head
Secrets of comedy couples: What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?

Secrets of comedy couples

What's it like when both you and your partner are stand-ups?
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
The best swimwear for men: From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer

The best swimwear for men

From trunks to shorts, make a splash this summer
Mark Hix recipes: Our chef tries his hand at a spot of summer foraging

Mark Hix goes summer foraging

 A dinner party doesn't have to mean a trip to the supermarket
Ashes 2015: With an audacious flourish, home hero Ian Bell ends all debate

With an audacious flourish, the home hero ends all debate

Ian Bell advances to Trent Bridge next week almost as undroppable as Alastair Cook and Joe Root, a cornerstone of England's new thinking, says Kevin Garside
Aaron Ramsey interview: Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season

Aaron Ramsey interview

Wales midfielder determined to be centre of attention for Arsenal this season
Community Shield: Arsene Wenger needs to strike first blow in rivalry with Jose Mourinho

Community Shield gives Wenger chance to strike first blow in rivalry with Mourinho

As long as the Arsenal manager's run of games without a win over his Chelsea counterpart continues it will continue to dominate the narrative around the two men
The unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth - and what it says about English life

Unlikely rise of AFC Bournemouth

Bournemouth’s elevation to football’s top tier is one of the most improbable of recent times. But it’s illustrative of deeper and wider changes in English life
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms