Midland retailers say the festive season offered up some reason for cheer as early data suggested increasing consumer confidence appeared to be borne out.
Birmingham’s flagship Bullring mall saw more than a million visitors during the week before Christmas.
And the centre’s car parks marked their busiest ever day on December 23, with 12,000 cars coming through the barriers.
Boxing Day sales were also up this year, based on a similar turnout to 2012.
Bullring general manager Tim Walley said: “We had an extremely busy festive period.
“Boxing Day was a very successful day and stronger than anticipated with shoppers queuing from 12.30am to be first in line for the sales.
“In total we welcomed 200,000 customers and sales were up on Boxing Day 2012.”
Bargain-hunters started queuing even earlier than in 2012 with queues stretching down St Martin’s Walk and into St Martin’s Square.
Doors opened at 6am, when hundreds headed for clothes chain Next, which was offering up to 50 per cent off.
Queues also formed early for the Selfridges sale, which began at 8am and offered massive savings on designer brands.
Debenhams opened its half-price sale at 7am, as did Gap, which offered as much as 75 per cent off marked prices.
Stores including Clarks, River Island and Goldsmith Jewellers slashed prices by up to 50 per cent.
Mr Walley said: “Boxing Day has become a major trading day for our retailers, with thousands flocking to the centre before the shops even opened.”
It was a similar picture at Bullring on the last Saturday before Christmas, known as “Panic Saturday”.
More than 200,000 late shoppers visited on December 21 as stores cut prices in a bid to boost sales.
Marks and Spencer had a one-day “30 per cent off clothing” promotion, while Debenhams, Mothercare, Gap, Argos and BHS also unveiled bargains.
Austin Reed offered 25 to 60 per cent off all womenswear and House of Fraser boasted 50 per cent off selected lines.
Post-Christmas day trading in Solihull was also brisk, mirroring the run-up to the festive season.
Melanie Palmer, Solihull BID manager, said: “Trading has been strong in Solihull since Christmas, with footfall figures in the town up by as much as 15 per cent over the same period last year.
“Christmas arrived later for retailers this year and online shopping is definitely having an impact.
“But it certainly arrived with a bang when it did. Since Christmas. retail performance has continued to build. The new Christmas market was packed throughout December.
“The diverse range of Solihull town centre retailers who used the BID chalets on the market, including House of Fraser, Sainsbury’s and some of our many independent boutiques, enjoyed a very busy time; signposting shoppers back to their stores and selling out of the products they had brought with them. The town was packed throughout Christmas and New Year with people of all ages.”
The busy Christmas was expected to give retailers a boost in profits after a difficult year.
The British Retail Consortium showed a 3.4 per cent drop in footfall from September to November, the sharpest fall since August.
Online shopping did £10.1 billion-worth of business in November but there were still high expectations that Christmas 2013 could be the best since 2007.
Retail analyst Donald McFetridge said: “Consumer confidence is increasing as the economy begins to stabilise.”
Department stores saw the first rise in sales for nearly a year in November as early festive shopping sparked hopes of a rebound for the sector, according to figures.
Spending in department stores rose 2.8 per cent year-on-year in the month, having stayed in the red for 13 months in a row, data from Barclaycard showed.
But store sales growth was outpaced once more by online shopping, which leapt to 21 per cent of all spending.
So-called Black Friday saw spending up by more than a fifth, driven by a 41 per cent increase in the amount forked out online.
Overall consumer spending in November lifted three per cent, although average transaction values dropped 3.3 per cent in a sign that retailers were discounting heavily in the run-up to Christmas.
Department store chain John Lewis recently posted its latest sales figures showing a 1.8 per cent rise year-on-year to £144.5 million.