Jingling tills cheer region’s retailers

SHOPPERS delivered much-needed festive cheer to retailers in one of the busiest weekends of the year.

Shopping centres in Yorkshire reported a rise in numbers on the penultimate Saturday before Christmas, with shoppers enticed in by “strategic” discounts.

Around 57,000 shoppers went through the doors of the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds on Saturday alone – 40 per cent more than on an average Saturday – and 10 per cent up on last year.

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Centre manager Dean Stratton expects next Saturday to be busier still. Despite increasing numbers shopping online, he said: “Online shopping is part of the normal shopping experience and we embrace that; we have a great website and our retailers have great websites.

“Customers tell us it is a great place to go online to browse and select, but they absolutely still want to come to touch and feel and experience the retail environment.”

Some stores have already begun sales but Mr Stratton said they were pre-planned, rather than a reaction to poor sales performance.

He said: “The old-fashioned notion of Christmas sales starting on Boxing Day is a bit out-of-date.

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Retailers are planning strategic offers to entice people in the run up to Christmas; these are planned events.”

A spokeswoman for the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield said numbers visiting were eight per cent up on last year. So far they have sold 532,000 mince pies, eight tonnes of tinsel and nearly three million presents.

Centre director Darren Pearce put the increase down to a wide range of new stores opening throughout the year and a £7m newly refurbished dining quarter.

Meanwhile John Lewis reported a second successive week of record sales.

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The department store business, which has 39 shops across the UK, including in Sheffield, took £147.8m at the tills and online in the week to Saturday, an increase of 11.1 per cent on a year earlier.

Its website operation also broke the previous week’s record by registering sales of £43.1m over the seven days.

Selling operations director Maggie Porteous said: “With a further nine shopping days before the big event, it is excellent news to have already had two record weeks, both over £140m for the first time.”