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Retailers braced for bumper sales

Retailers are expecting bumper sales as snow-hit Britons seized their last chance to finish Christmas shopping.

Stores were prepared for panic-buying on the high street after the worst winter weather in 100 years forced many to postpone shopping trips in the run-up to Christmas Day.

Visa Europe is expected to confirm that Thursday was a record-breaker for shoppers with an estimated 26.5 million transactions worth more than £1.2 billion.

Around 200,000 people headed to Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, while Meadowhall, near Sheffield, was crammed with 130,000 shoppers.

David Barford, John Lewis's director of selling operations, said: "This week is always incredibly busy for us but there will also be an element of pent-up demand where shoppers weren't able to get to branches because of the weather."

While today may be the last chance to buy before Christmas, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it was unlikely to top Thursday as many stores had shorter opening hours.

Spokeswoman Sarah Cordey said: "After the disruption of December, retailers will be hoping that all of this week they have very good business.

"For people who couldn't get out last weekend, a lot of offices are closed on Christmas Eve so there's definitely an opportunity for them to get out and do some Christmas shopping."

Trade could also be booming for retailers on Christmas Day itself as analysts predict shoppers could spend more than £150 million online for the first time this year.

An estimated 4.8 million people are expected to spend around £153 million on the day, according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG). And Boxing Day spending could top £300 million for the first time, it said.

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