Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Shops offer last-minute discounts

Shoppers in Birmingham
Shoppers may be finally hitting the High Street

Retailers are hoping for a last-minute Christmas rush with a number of shops starting sales on Christmas Eve after a disappointing festive trading period.

Some of the High Street's best-known names, such as B&Q and John Lewis, are already offering big discounts.

Others are holding out until January when nearly half of Britons plan to hit the sales, according to a new poll.

But for a few it is too late, with some of the High Street's most established names already in administration.

"Retailers are offering discounts on an unprecedented scale to encourage customers in," said Richard Dodd at the British Retail Consortium.

Shoppers who can still afford to spend after Christmas may finally be spoilt for choice in both selection and price
Tim Denison, Synovate Retail Performance

Supermarket Tesco and the fashion retailers Principles and Whistles are just some of the shops that have already announced big discounts.

Out in force

Retailers' efforts may finally be paying off, according to figures from the market research group Experian.

The number of shoppers on UK High Streets grew 13.63% on Monday, compared with the same Monday in 2007, although the day was also a Christmas Eve.

The figures signalled that shoppers were "out in force buying last minute gifts and Christmas merchandise," Experian said.

But the really big discounts could be just round the corner.

"There is likely to be more Christmas stock unsold than hoped - and shoppers who can still afford to spend after Christmas may finally be spoilt for choice in both selection and price," said Tim Denison at Synovate Retail Performance.

A new poll from Halifax shows that 48% of Britons plan to go to the January sales in 2009, compared with 39% that went this year.

For some retailers, however, the gain in sales has come too late.

MFI closed down earlier this month, with the loss of 1,400 jobs, while the administrators of Woolworths say that all the chain's outlets will close by 5 January.

On Tuesday two more retailers called in the administrators - the tea and coffee chain Whittard of Chelsea which has 130 stores in the UK and around the world, and the menswear retailer The Officers Club.

Some analysts have speculated that 10 to 15 more retail chains could collapse in 2009.

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