Last-minute festive shoppers boost high street

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Millions of Christmas shoppers flocked to the high street during one of the busiest retail weekends of the year – with the mad rush for last-minute gifts and bargains expected to continue this week and into the new year.

Many stores slashed their prices in an attempt to boost sales on the final weekend before Christmas. Tills were ringing at John Lewis – which has a store in Sheffield – and bosses yesterday recorded £164.4m in takings in the week ending on Saturday night, a 4.2 per cent increase on last year and up 31.8 per cent on two years ago. Online sales at the retail giant also rose by 31 per cent year-on-year as shoppers bought from the comfort of their own homes.

Meadowhall Shopping Centre had predicted more than 500,000 shoppers over the pre-Christmas weekend, and expects to welcome 150,000 people on Boxing Day alone. Paul Smith, the marketing manager at the new Trinity Leeds shopping centre, said footfall had been up 40 per cent on regular weekends.

He added: “We wouldn’t be surprised if we saw up to 750,000 shoppers dropping into Trinity Leeds between Christmas and new year to bag some bargains.”

Online retailer Amazon has also predicted record Christmas sales this year and said it will be starting its Boxing Day sale a day early.

Retailers will have considered this weekend a last chance to turn their profits around after the British Retail Consortium showed a 3.4 per cent annual drop in footfall from September to November – the sharpest fall since August last year.