Belfast Telegraph

Christmas Eve may not be such a Super Saturday as shoppers tighten purse strings

Struggling retailers could be about to suffer a sorry Christmas Eve as figures suggest consumers will spend significantly less than last year on one of the calendar's busiest shopping days.

Shoppers will spend £726 million on Christmas Eve this year, according to Sainsbury's Bank credit cards - a significant drop from last year's poll in which consumers said they expected to splash out £1.4 billion.

The findings will be especially troubling for retailers hoping for a bonanza Saturday after Christmas Eve last year fell on a Thursday.

This season's last full day of shopping falling on a Saturday should have been perfect timing for stores, which have seen their margins squeezed between rising business costs and consumer demand for rock-bottom prices.

Supermarkets expect their busiest shopping day to be Friday, however, and the Westfield mall in west London also predicts footfall will hit a peak of more than 300,000 people ahead of the weekend.

But the Sainsbury's poll also found that Christmas shoppers' total spending over this week will reach just £191 each, significantly down from last year's £272.

Westfield said this year "boasts the added benefit of Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday" in what it hoped would allow for "two Super Saturdays".

Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer at Westfield UK and Europe, said: "With Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, December 24 is expected to be a second Super Saturday for Britain's retailers.

"Last year, the pre-Christmas Super Saturday was one of our busiest shopping days of the year, with close to 300,000 people passing through the doors of our London centres.

"December 23rd has also become our biggest Christmas shopping day with over 300,000 visiting Westfield in 2015 and we expect similar numbers again this year."

Meanwhile, post-Christmas shoppers are predicted to go on a £3.85 billion bargain hunt on Boxing Day, spending £2.95 billion on the high street and another £900 million online, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research.

Shoppers are expected to spend £7.6 billion between Boxing Day and December 29, with 67% of this going into high street tills.

VoucherCodes managing director Claire Davenport said: "Consumer appetite for deals remains stronger than ever, with billions set to be spent in store and on the high street between Boxing Day and New Year.

"Although the high street is still the favourite for discount shoppers, online spend is steadily increasing year on year."

:: Opinium Research surveyed 2,000 UK adults between December 2 and 5 for Sainsbury's Bank and 2,003 UK adults between December 4 and 8 last year.

Analysts Springboard said retail footfall had decreased by 7.7% year on year for the week to date.

It said retailers were "holding their breath" for shoppers to make a last dash to stores for a late boost ahead of post-Christmas sales.

And while online spending continued to rise, the pace of its increase had slowed this year to 30.3% from the same days in 2015 compared with 74.5% between 2014 and 2015.

Springboard insights director Diane Wehrle said: "Footfall results to date show an edge of caution amongst shoppers this Christmas.

"The slow in online transactions confirms shoppers' caution and suggests they may be holding out for Boxing Day bargains.

"The first post-Brexit Christmas will be a learning experience for the retail industry as we observe how shoppers engage with leisure and retail following a tumultuous few months for the economy."

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