Stores predict busiest shopping day
Shoppers hit the UK high street in force today as retailers enjoyed what is predicted to be their busiest day ahead of Christmas.
The high street traditionally experiences its busiest day two days before Christmas, and Visa Europe expects some £1.3 billion to be spent using its cards today.
Bosses at the Manchester Arndale shopping centre said they expected about 220,000 visitors today on the back of a similar number coming through its doors yesterday, and customers were spending more money this Christmas.
Centre director David Allinson said: "The feedback we are getting from the retailers is that people are spending more this Christmas. The average transaction value is up.
"Technology is always a key seller with the Playstation 4 one of the best sellers, and jewellery has again sold strongly. Now the winter weather is a bit cooler we have seen a big increase in people buying coats and capes.
"On a lighter note the success of the Frozen film has been unbelievable with more than 5,000 Elsa and Anna dolls sold at the Disney Store."
He continued: "Today is extremely busy. Yesterday we had 220,000 people visit us and we are expecting at least the same today if not better.
"It has been a busy week. We had 400,000 people come through this weekend.
"Today is the day we see lots of men with anguished faces, with some taking advantage of our gift-wrapping service in which we ask for donations to our chosen charities.
"In general terms the numbers overall have been comparable to last year. We had a very successful December last year as over five and a half million came through the doors and we are hitting those numbers again."
Visa Europe predicts £916,667 will be spent every minute, or £15,278 every second, on its cards.
It expects the peak of the spending to have taken place in the lunch hour break from 1pm to 2pm.
Kevin Jenkins, managing director at Visa Europe, said: "Black Friday kick-started Christmas on the high street and online this year but the busiest bricks and mortar day w ill 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."
Thirty-four million transactions are expected to take place which is 7% higher than in 2013, while spending is predicted to rise 6%.
The new retail ombudsman, who takes up his role on January 2, urged shoppers to be "savvy" to avoid issues such as faulty goods, unwanted presents and delivery issues.
The ombudsman, consumer barrister Dean Dunham, said: "Before you complete your purchase ask the retailer what their returns policy is with Christmas presents, always ask for a gift receipt and if you are ordering online ask the retailer to confirm in writing when the goods will arrive."
This weekend saw more than 800,000 people visit Westfield centres in London and shopping hours have been extended until midnight tonight to allow more last-minute shoppers the chance to purchase presents.
Retail analysts Springboard say today should be the busiest shopping day of the year, but they expect an overall drop in footfall year-on-year on Christmas Eve.