Belfast Telegraph

Record sales on high street and online defy the retail gloom

By Richard Hall

Retailers have announced record sales during the busiest shopping period of the year, with the public defying austerity to splash out on Christmas presents.

Millions of shoppers went online and hit the stores at the weekend as retailers responded to forecasts of a drop in sales over the Christmas period by slashing prices in "panic sales". Store chains including Marks -amp; Spencer, French Connection and Barratts were offering discounts of up to 50%.

The public appears to have taken the bait, with more than 1.5m shoppers flooding to London's West End, spending £180m on Saturday, according to the New West End Company, which represents 600 traders in the capital. Selfridges, on Oxford Street, said customers were queuing to get in when the store opened at 11.30am, with headphones, iPads, Kindles, candles and chocolates among the most popular items.

John Lewis reported sales totalling £123.5m last week - the most the department store chain has ever taken in a seven-day period.

The story was even better for online retailers, which saw 84.6m visits to their sites on December 5, or "Cyber Monday" - the busiest online shopping day of the year.

The figure reveals a dramatic increase in the number of people going online to do their Christmas shopping, from last year's figure of 72 million visits.