It was billed as Panic Saturday. And today millions of last-minute Christmas shoppers flocked to the country’s high streets in one of the busiest retail weekends of the year.
The numbers were boosted by stores slashing prices to increase sales. Retail giants Marks & Spencer had a one-day only 30% off clothing promotion, while Debenhams, Mothercare, Gap, Argos and BHS also cut prices.
Shopping centre bosses admitted business had been brisk.
In Glasgow, Intu Braehead’s Gary Turnbull said: “I reckon Santa will have to add an extra trailer or two to his sleigh this year to deliver all the Christmas presents people have been buying. Shoppers were queuing at the centre an hour before the shops’ official opening time.
“Because of this, some of the stores opened half an hour earlier than the usual 9am. And as soon as the mall opened, there were queues outside individual shops particularly the Apple Store and the Build-A-Bear Workshop.”
In Edinburgh staff at the Gyle Shopping Centre were a little more downbeat. A spokesman said: “It’s been much as you’d expect busy but not too busy.
“It’s too early to tell sales-wise but we are probably looking at something similar to last year.”
In Inverness’s Eastgate Shopping Centre bosses said they had been “extremely busy”.
South of the border, shopping centres were reporting potentially record-breaking sales. Karen Carr, marketing manager for the Metrocentre in Gateshead, said: “It has been really, really busy the tills have been ringing!
“Today we were busy for 12 hours and the crowds were still building at 4pm. We are expecting tomorrow to be extremely busy as well. There are still plenty of offers for shoppers to take advantage of.”
In London, Sally Eden of Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: “It’s very busy here. Over this week we’ve seen footfall steadily rising.
“There’s a sense of urgency because Christmas is coming and this is the last weekend. It’s the first time many people who have been working can get to the shops. There’s also a sense they are looking to make their money go further.
“Historically, there are always promotions leading up to Christmas. The retailers are working hard to do that but they won’t go into full sales until Boxing Day.”
Retailers will consider this weekend a last chance to turn their profits around after the British Retail Consortium showed a 3.4% annual drop in footfall from September to November the sharpest fall since August last year.
Retail sales were up 0.3% in November, while in October they fell 0.9%, according to the latest official figures from the sector.
Experts said it means that unless a sharp rebound occurs in December, the fourth quarter will be relatively flat.
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