AUSTERITY may be set to last until 2018, but shoppers will have to get their elbows out after retail bosses predicted today would be the busiest Saturday of the year before Christmas.
With only two more weekends until December 25, upbeat managers across Edinburgh said stores would be thronged as consumers emerge from a period of belt-tightening to splash out in style.
They were backed by experts at the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC), who said depressed sales earlier this year meant city shops were set for a bonanza between today and the end of the month.
John Lewis Edinburgh managing director Barry Blamire said: “This Saturday should be our peak Saturday before Christmas – it doesn’t come much bigger.”
He said the recession had not affected business at his store and predicted shoppers would flood through the doors.
“We’re doing incredibly well,” he said. “Last week our sales were up nine per cent on the same week last year. For the year to date, we’re up 12 per cent.
“We’ll be price-matching sales introduced elsewhere to drive buying, which will mean big offers for customers.
“We’ll have 15 per cent off most of our beauty brands and many of our women’s fashion labels will be going into their sale period as well. Our Phase Eight range will see discounts of up to 50 per cent.”
Richard Dodd, of the SRC, warned shoppers they may face a “last-minute rush” as purse strings are loosened in the weeks before Christmas.
“New sales data next week is expected to show Scots have held off spending so far and we’re expecting much stronger sales from now on,” he said.
With this weekend’s weather set to be cold but dry, John Lewis was joined by competitors in a ruthless price-cutting drive to tempt shoppers.
Harvey Nichols announced it would slash 30 per cent off fashion items and a further 20 per cent from shoes and accessories for three days from December 13.
Bosses at Jenners said prices across the department store’s range of knitted goods had been cut 30 per cent, with goods in the Christmas shop selling for half price.
Marks and Spencer is currently offering 20 per cent discounts on women’s clothing, while Boots bosses said the price of the Ted Baker Star Quality toiletries range would drop from £45 to just £22 until Friday.
Shop managers said demand for toiletries, crafts and the latest digital media devices was driving business, with the Chanel No5 perfume range, Scots-made clothing and the iPad among the fastest selling goods.
Karen Macdonald, Jenners store manager, said: “At Jenners, we have been preparing for a bumper Saturday this week and are ready to welcome an increased number of shoppers over the weekend.
“This Christmas we have seen a huge demand for Scottish manufactured products. Customers have been snapping up the Linea men’s lambswool sweater made in Hawick, as well as flocking to the second floor where we have an edit of Scottish arts, crafts and gifts curated by Valvona & Crolla including a selection of handbags and wallets from Harris Tweed.”
Andrew Cronie, centre manager at the Gyle, said: “It should be a bumper weekend, although the spend could be spread over a longer period this year as there are still three weekends before Christmas – December 22 and 23 fall on a Saturday and Sunday – rather than the two we had at this stage last year.”