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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 08:28 GMT
Festive sales up for John Lewis
John Lewis
John Lewis appears to have had an enjoyable Christmas period
Department store group John Lewis has given the first hard evidence of a Christmas recovery on the High Street.

The first major retailer to issue sales figures for the festive season, it saw sales rise 11.7% in the month until 24 December, compared to a year earlier.

It marks a major turnaround after the firm said in September that trading conditions were the worst in 15 years.

Most shops are expected to report good festive sales, but analysts say much of this is down to significant price cuts.

'Big discounts'

Business organisation the CBI said on 21 December that retailers were having to resort to "aggressive" discounting to get customers through the doors in significant numbers.

Store in central London
Post-Christmas sales have been brisk

For that reason, while sales may be up over Christmas, the rise in actual profits may be much more limited after price reductions hit margins.

Retailers said on Tuesday that they had seen a brisk start to their post-Christmas winter sales, with some reporting shopping "madness" in their busiest trading day of the year.

About 2,000 people queued up at the Bluewater shopping mall in Kent from 0300GMT, awaiting the opening of retail giant Next two hours later.

The number of people visiting the centre's 330 stores later swelled to about 160,000, a spokeswoman reported.

On Boxing Day, leading shopping centres saw 17% more visitors than in 2004.

Extra promotions

Retail analysts FootFall - who monitor retail activity in more than 200 shopping centres - said the increase was due to more stores being open, more promotional activity and the fact that Christmas fell at a weekend.

Marks & Spencer is another firm expected to report a significant rise in sales over the festive period, as it continues its recovery after a number of years in the doldrums.

On Tuesday it reported brisk business at its Marble Arch store in London, its largest outlet in the capital.

"It has been really, really busy. I don't remember seeing it like this," said a spokesman.

Online retailer Amazon said its UK arm delivered up to 480,000 items a day in the run up to Christmas, its busiest ever festive trading period.

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