Buying frenzy as millions turn out for busiest day of shopping

MORE than 11 million shoppers on the hunt for a pre-Christmas bargain are set to spend over £1 billion at £1.5 million a minute on the busiest shopping day of the festive season today.

Shopping comparison website Kelkoo predicts that consumers will spend £128 each on Christmas presents and other goods, taking the average family spend this Christmas to almost £700. Online sales are expected to soar by more than 16 per cent to £13.4bn compared with last year, and compared to a two per cent fall on the high street, said the report by Kelkoo.

At the White Rose Centre in Leeds, centre director Peter Cook has said that the shops had been busy all week.

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“This week has been very, very vibrant. We expect Saturday to be the busiest day pre-Christmas, although Boxing Day could end up being a little bit busier. Friday was also very busy.

With the public sector job crisis and the rise in VAT, customers are being a little bit more cautious this year, but what we are seeing now is people coming because there are such great bargains to be had. We are expecting it to be as busy as last year.”

Meadowhall in Sheffield has also seen an influx of Christmas shoppers looking for bargains ahead of December 25, with customers taking advantage of extended opening hours.

Kelkoo said that the number of pre-Christmas sales promotions could increase in the coming week if trade is poor.

Chris Simpson, chief marketing officer, said: “The peak weeks of Christmas trading are crucial to retailers as this period accounts for nearly one-fifth of the UK retail industry’s annual sales, making stores fight harder than ever to tempt shoppers through their doors. “However, despite all of the high street promotions and discounts that are already being offered, it is really important for shoppers who want to save money to check prices for items online before hitting the shops.

“This is because many retailers operate a split pricing structure whereby the prices you find on their websites are lower than in their high street stores.”