Shoppers seek post-Christmas deals
Hundreds of thousands of shoppers have pounded the high streets to snap up post-Christmas bargains in a boost for retailers before VAT goes up in the New Year.
Shopping centres up and down the country were packed while crowds queued up from the early hours for the first full day of discounts at major retailers.
Department stores John Lewis and Harrods both launched their winter sales on Monday after staying closed on Boxing Day.
But despite a flurry of trade over Christmas, the majority of retailers are expecting a slump in business in 2011, according to a survey. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said two-thirds of retailers responding to its Retail Prospects for 2011 survey said they expected retail sales to worsen compared with 2010.
Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "Our survey shows retailers expect a difficult December to be followed by a tough 2011. They believe the VAT rise will contribute to higher prices and, with fears about Government cuts and the wider economy, people will be put off spending." But he added almost half of retailers planned to create jobs and invest in their business next year.
The bad weather is also expected to have less of an impact on business than first feared.
Mr Robertson said: "Despite the combination of snow and concerns about their money and job prospects, most customers were still determined to buy things they wanted for Christmas and did seize the opportunities they had to shop."
Shoppers took advantage of milder weather to get out into the sales, spending £10,000 a minute at Brent Cross shopping centre in north-west London, which topped Monday's rate of £7,000 a minute. Tom Nathan, general manager at Brent Cross, said stores were offering discounts of up to 80% to entice customers.
More than 50,000 people had passed through the doors of Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, by 11am on Monday, with around 180,000 expected to visit by the end of the day. Many had been queuing for bargains since the early hours to get into stores such as Next which opened at 5am.
In London, model Jerry Hall and eldest daughter Lizzy Jagger officially opened the Harrods clearance while John Lewis celebrated a 30% rise in sales for the week ending on Christmas Day, totalling £97.1 million.