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Early sales bring rush to stores

Britain's high streets and shopping malls finally saw a Christmas retail bonanza as shoppers turned out in force to take advantage of early sales.

Queues formed outside high street stores as many retailers slashed their prices in the hope of kick-starting the big Christmas spend.

Store chains including Marks & Spencer, fashion retailer French Connection and shoe chain Barratts were offering discounts of up to 50% aimed at getting bargain hunters to part with their cash.

Capital Shopping Centres (CSC), which operates 14 malls including the Trafford Centre in Manchester, Lakeside in Thurrock, and St David's in Cardiff, reported that record numbers of shoppers had taken advantage of offers such as a three-for-two on everything at accessories shop Accesorize and discounts of up to 50% at Past Times gift stores.

Trevor Pereira, commercial director at CSC, said: "It has been really busy across all the centres today and we have seen record numbers of shoppers out in force with cars parks and restaurants being full. Our retailers are telling us that retro games such as mini-pinball and Jenga are selling well and that shoppers are being discerning in their purchases."

Traders in Oxford Street and Regent Street in central London said they believed they would make £180 million in sales just from Saturday after both streets were pedestrianised to attract an estimated one million shoppers.

Richard Dickinson, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents 600 traders in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said it has been a "good sunny shopping day" in the West End.

"November was not great for retailers but today a lot of people have driven in to get good winter products for the cold. Electronics are doing well too," he said.

A spokesman for Meadowhall, in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, said sales at the centre had started earlier than they would traditionally.

He said: "I think that's a UK-wide phenomenon. But certainly that's what we're seeing in the centre."

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