Shops braced for £5.9bn weekend rush for Christmas

Shoppers will be braving the crowds to hunt for last-minute bargains in the run-up to Christmas. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Shoppers will be braving the crowds to hunt for last-minute bargains in the run-up to Christmas. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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This weekend is set to overtake Black Friday as the busiest Christmas shopping period of this year as shoppers rush to snap up last-minute bargains.

A total of £5.9 billion is expected to be spent in UK stores over the four-day period – whereas this year’s Black Friday weekend, usually the biggest shopping time due to retailers slashing prices and offering heavy promotions on goods, saw £5.74bn rung through the nation’s tills.

The unseasonably mild weather, which is due to continue up until Christmas, is expected to encourage shoppers to hit the high street.

However, MasterCard’s SpendingPulse report, which measures UK retail sales across all payment types, including cards and cash, forecast that people would also spend 24 per cent more online than last year, despite the short time period before Christmas, due to e-retailers’s increasing ability to deliver quickly.

Meanwhile, a separate study from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that over the past week, almost three-quarters of 100 high street retailers had goods on sale or were offering advertising promotions – such as three for two deals – in their shop window.

The report found that compared to this time last week, advertised promotions are up nine percentage points, while average price discounts are up by five percentage points.

Martin Cowie, head of private business at PwC in Scotland, said: “Many high street retailers are counting on a big final pre-Christmas weekend. As a result, the level of promotional activity has moved up another gear as people get ready for the frantic last weekend of shopping before the 25th.

“With no sight of the cold snap and snow flurries anticipated, the continuing mild weather will be a concern to clothing retailers in particular.”

He added: “With only six shopping days to go, it’s all to play for on Scotland’s high streets.”

The Mastercard report found that groceries will represent the majority of consumer expenditure, accounting for 55 per cent of all money spent, with the food and drink sector set to increase by 2.8 per cent year-on-year. However, clothes and gifts are also expected to feature strongly.

Mark Barnett, president of MasterCard UK & Ireland, said: “The shift to shopping online is undeniable, but high streets and shopping malls still dominate with four out of five pounds spent offline.

“Last year, consumers left their shopping late, and we are expecting many to do the same this year, with the four days from Saturday forecast to be the biggest shopping days of the year.”

Black Friday, which fell on 27 November this year, has become the biggest Christmas shopping day as UK consumers and shops adopt what was previously an American trend.