A retail group has reported a surge in Christmas sales and shoppers, boosting hopes of a late High Street spree.
More than £9bnis expected to be spent in the run up to Christmas
John Lewis Group has reported its "busiest ever" weekend, with sales for the week to 17 December topping £85.1m - up 8% on 2004.
Its supermarket arm, Waitrose, also delivered a 7% jump in like-for-like sales for the week to 16 December.
Researchers Footfall said overall the number of sales visits over the weekend were up 2.6% on last week.
However, the customer counting group did warn that the figures were significantly down on the same period last year.
Meanwhile other retailers are hoping improved consumer confidence, and early sales and promotions will produce a surge in Christmas sales.
On the High Street, department store Debenhams has held a series of discount days while Marks & Spencer has been holding "three for two promotions".
Elsewhere, Boots and Superdrug have slashed perfume prices, while several chains have brought forward their traditional January sales to lure in shoppers.
Footfall blamed the timing of Christmas this year for a 5.9% drop in the shopper numbers recorded in its retail footfall index.
"This is not really a surprise as last year this weekend was much closer to Christmas Day and therefore seen as a much more pivotal time to buy some last minute presents," said Footfall managing director Natasha Burton.
"This year the retailers seem to have done their job well in the preceding weeks with flash promotions and targeted sales and are now relying on the usual last minute rush of shoppers in the last few days."
Shoppers are expected to splash out £9.5bn in the final days before Christmas, up £1.91bn from last year, a TNS poll carried out for Sainsbury's Bank claims.
Meanwhile, according to internet bank Egg, the average person expects to spend £365 on gifts - with children getting £175-worth of toys alone.
But all of this spending could come at a price - debt solutions firm One Advice has estimated that as many as 2.4 million people are currently still paying off last year's Christmas debts.