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Shops braced for 'Panic Saturday'

High street spending is set to reach £1.2 billion in a single day as festive shoppers hit the stores on "Panic Saturday".

An estimated 13 million consumers will spend £2.1 million for every minute the shops are 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) for Vouchercodes.co.uk.

The report says delayed fulfilment of online orders, poor weather in some areas and earlier sales are expected to drive 60.9 million shoppers to the high street between Saturday and Christmas Eve - up 14% on last year.

The CRR predicts in-store sales will reach £4.74 billion over the five days before Christmas - a 21% increase on last year with the additional shopping day contributing an extra £870 million.

Vouchercodes.co.uk managing director Claire Davenport said: "With Christmas Day falling later in the week this year, consumers feel that there is still plenty of time to complete their shopping.

"Panic Saturday kicks off a big week for retailers and we're expecting to see a huge increase in traffic to our site this weekend."

Data from payment processing company Worldpay suggests Britain's department stores can expect to double their takings this weekend, with outlets in the north of England set to benefit the most from Panic Saturday.

It said the number of card payments processed by department stores in some parts of the UK just prior to Christmas rose by as much as 224% this time last year, with even better figures expected this year.

Worldpay UK managing director Dave Hobday said: "Department stores are magnets for shoppers who find themselves in the last-chance saloon in the final few days before Christmas.

"Many of these eleventh-hour shoppers will be breaking into a cold sweat at the thought of heading to the high street on the busiest shopping day of the year and praying for someone to take the pain away."

But those averse to crowds are advised to stay home on Tuesday next week for what is expected to be the busiest single high street shopping day ahead of Christmas.

Visa Europe predicts shoppers will spend £1.3 billion on Tuesday alone on the high street, or £15,278 every second, on its 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 over £1 billion this year, Visa predicts that the high street will continue to see its busiest day two days before Christmas.

Overall, the seven day period before Christmas Day is predicted to see a 7% increase in spending and an 8% 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.

"Retailers' multi-channel approach should cause a surge in footfall from click-and-collect sales too, with the opportunity for further shopping in-store when consumers arrive.

"Across Tuesday December 23 we are likely to see £1.3 billion 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."

Westfield director Myf Ryan said: "We are expecting this Saturday to be the busiest day for shopping so far this year. Last year our London centres attracted over 320,000 shoppers on the last Saturday before Christmas and we are again expecting big numbers this year.

"Over three million shoppers each year leave their Christmas shopping to the last 12 days. Promotions continue to be a key factor this year following the huge success of Black Friday where we had over 20% growth year-on-year, but luxury brands are also drawing shoppers who are looking for that extra-special gift."

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