Shoppers flock to high street sales

Hundreds of thousands of shoppers pounded the high streets today to snap up post-Christmas bargains in a boost for retailers before VAT goes up in the New Year.

Shopping centres up and down the country were packed while crowds queued up from the early hours for the first full day of discounts at major retailers.

Department stores John Lewis and Harrods both launched their winter sales today after staying closed on Boxing Day.

But despite a flurry of trade over Christmas, the majority of retailers are expecting a slump in business in 2011, according to a survey.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said two-thirds of retailers responding to its Retail Prospects for 2011 survey said they expected retail sales to worsen compared with 2010.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "Our survey shows retailers expect a difficult December to be followed by a tough 2011.

"They believe the VAT rise will contribute to higher prices and, with fears about Government cuts and the wider economy, people will be put off spending."

But he added almost half of retailers planned to create jobs and invest in their business next year.

"An encouraging proportion intends to increase investment and create jobs," Mr Robertson said.

The bad weather is also expected to have less of an impact on business than first feared.

Mr Robertson said: "Despite the combination of snow and concerns about their money and job prospects, most customers were still determined to buy things they wanted for Christmas and did seize the opportunities they had to shop."

Shoppers took advantage of milder weather today to get out into the sales, spending £10,000 a minute at Brent Cross shopping centre in north-west London, which topped yesterday's rate of £7,000 a minute.

Tom Nathan, general manager at Brent Cross, said stores were offering discounts of up to 80% to entice customers.

More than 50,000 people had passed through the doors of Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, by 11am, with around 180,000 expected to visit by the end of the day.

Many had been queuing for bargains since the early hours to get into stores such as Next which opened at 5am.

Michael Holland, marketing controller for Highcross shopping centre in Leicester, said 65,000 people flocked into the centre yesterday and more than 90,000 were expected to have hit the sales by close of trading at 9pm tonight.

He said: "Highcross only opened two years ago so for us to have 65,000 on a Sunday, with limited trading hours, is exceptional."

Thousands of people also visited Capital Shopping Centres' 13 malls around the UK, filling up car parks by 11.30am.

In London, model Jerry Hall and eldest daughter Lizzy Jagger officially opened the Harrods clearance while John Lewis celebrated a 30% rise in sales for the week ending on Christmas Day, totalling £97.1 million.

The store launched its online clearance at 5pm on Christmas Eve and saw sales rise by 42% with more than four products sold every second.

The store also attracted a 25% increase in visitors online on Christmas Day with sales going up by 45%.

Maggie Porteous, head of selling operations for John Lewis, said: "Customers clearly appreciate our Never Knowingly Undersold commitment and are responding extremely well to our inspiring products, great value and exceptional service.

"We are also thrilled to have finished the pre-Christmas period on such a strong note as the slight thaw in the weather released some pent-up demand."

Jace Tyrrell, spokesman for the New West End Company covering Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said the shopping district was on track to reach its target of 800,000 people through the doors.

He said: "In terms of sales, we will be well over £80 million. For many retailers, today was the real Boxing Day because yesterday had restricted hours as well as the Tube strike.

"I think there's a bit of fear about the VAT rise, particularly with big ticket items like technology and luxury accessories.

"We are definitely where we should be in terms of our forecast but it has been a tough year."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower