Retailers reported a week’s bumper Christmas shopping spree that has defied the economic downturn and bucked two months of disappointing retail sales figures.
Across the country the high streets and shopping centres have seen the numbers of shoppers exceed expectations with just ten full shopping days remaining before Christmas.
Despite incessant rain on Saturday 300,000 umbrella-wielding shoppers still packed London’s Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets and similar numbers returned on Sunday.
Jace Tyrrell from the New West End Company (NWEC), responsible for London’s major West End shopping streets, said: “Everybody has shopping bags which is the best news.
“We estimate £50?million has been spent over the weekend which is on par with last year and, given the current economic climate, retailers are very happy with this.”
Elsewhere, Newcastle’s Eldon Square shopping centre reported 660,000 visitors throughout the week and Manchester’s Trafford Centre saw 130,000 shoppers through its doors on Saturday alone.
Barry Turnbull, manager at the Metrocentre in Gateshead, said: “The centre has been very busy this weekend.”
About 450,000 shoppers visited the Metrocentre throughout the week.
Richard Dodd, from the British Retail Consortium, said there was relief across the retail sector that many customers had “simply left their Christmas shopping late this year.”
He said: “It’s been a nervous lead up to Christmas because conditions have been so gloomy for so long and the sales figures from the last two months have shown sales down.”
He reported that shoppers had turned out in “big numbers” and thinks the ‘retail therapy’ could be partly as an “antidote to the gloom”.
Department store chain John Lewis offered more hope for the retail sector as it reported improved Christmas trading and a record week for its electricals sales.
The group saw an easing in year-on-year sales falls, with sales down four per cent in the week to Saturday – a marked improvement on the double digit declines seen during November.
The group also said that it notched up its best ever week for electricals and home technology, with sales two per cent higher than the previous record week.
Sales across the group’s department stores were up six per cent on the previous week and the group’s online operation has also added to the sales boost.
Capital Shopping Centres, with 14 sites across the country, estimates that in the last week 300,000 shoppers visited its Braehead Centre in Glasgow; 400,000 shoppers at the Lakeside Centre in Thurrock; Chapelfield in Norwich saw 260,000; Glades at Bromley 560,000; and the Victoria Centre in Nottingham 600,000.
However, Mr Dodd warned that retailers should not be too quick to celebrate the Christmas turnaround.
He said: “The big worry will be January and conditions could be tough following all of the spending in December.”
One unexpected boost to the British retail sector has been the influx of European tourists keen to cash in on the weak pound against the Euro.