HIGH street spending exceeded £1 billion yesterday as festive shoppers hit the stores on “Panic Saturday”.
Some of the country’s biggest high street names slashed prices in anticipation of one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Thirteen million consumers spent an estimated £2.1 million for every minute that the shops were open on last-minute gifts and groceries at an average of £92.31 per person, according to a report by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).
Among the retailers offering discounts, Debenhams was selling some Christmas gifts at half-price, Boots was offering a 60 per cent discount on selected fragrances, while Marks & Spencer had knocked 50 per cent off the price of some beauty products.
The CRR has predicted in-store sales will reach £4.74bn over the five days before Christmas – a 21 per cent increase on last year.
Its report, for Vouchercodes.co.uk, found that delayed online orders, poor weather in some areas and earlier sales were expected to drive 60.9 million shoppers to the high street between yesterday and Christmas Eve – up 14 per cent on last year.
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General manager at Intu Braehead in Glasgow, Gary Turnbull said yesterday: “This will undoubtedly be the busiest weekend for shopping this year.
“We’ve been open to midnight all this week and will be again, up to 23 December, but still the crowds of shoppers just keep coming.
“Today has been extremely busy, although we have coped well, with extra staff on duty directing cars to available spaces in our free car parks.
“Santa’s elves must be working overtime and sending out for more Sellotape and Christmas paper with all the gifts they need to wrap, considering the massive amount of presents people have been buying at Intu Braehead.”
Visa Europe predicts shoppers will spend £1.3bn on Tuesday alone on the high street, or £15,278 every second, using credit cards.
It estimates 34 million transactions will take place, with numbers peaking in the lunch-hour break between 1pm and 2pm.
Despite the rise of Black Friday, which saw high street spending of more than £1bn this year, Visa predicts that the high street will see its busiest day two days before Christmas.
Overall, the seven-day period before Christmas Day is expected to see a 7 per cent increase in spending and an 8 per cent increase in transactions on the same period last year.
Visa Europe managing director for the UK and Ireland, Kevin Jenkins, said: “Black Friday kick-started Christmas on the high street and online this year, but the busiest bricks and mortar day will likely remain in its traditional slot close to Christmas.
“Across Tuesday, 23 December, we are likely to see £1.3bn spent in total. Lunch hour should prove the most popular time for a shopping trip, either for last-minute gifts or final ingredients for Christmas dinner.”
A spokesman for Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh said: “It’s been less of a ‘Panic Saturday’ and more of a ‘Purposeful Saturday’. With a lot of people taking next week off, it seems that many are looking to crack their Christmas shopping today and have an idea of what they want.
“Perfume and cosmetics have been the clear winners – well ahead of the usual last-minute Christmas Eve dash. Accessories for both men and women have been selling very well, and in fashion we have seen strong sales from iconic, timeless international pieces.
“The day has been really busy from when we opened at 9am, and the numbers are well ahead of this Saturday last year.”
Top sellers for women this year include cashmere accessories, Michael Kors handbags and Chanel perfume, while top sellers for men include gadgets such as Nespresso coffee machines, Sonos wireless speakers, and PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games consoles.
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