Page last updated at 11:50 GMT, Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas shoppers defy cold weather to spend

Christmas shoppers
Shoppers have been spending despite the cold weather

UK shoppers have defied the harsh winter weather to spend during the last weekend before the Christmas holidays.

The New West End Company, which represents more than 600 traders in central London, said sales were up 10% on last year's sluggish trading.

"We estimate £140m to be spent over the weekend and we are looking to go over a million people," it said.

Heavy snowfall has caused traffic chaos in many parts of the UK, and is expected to continue on Sunday.

Sales were reported to be brisk across the UK, while credit card firm Visa expects people to keep spending this week.

Visa expects to process a new record of more than 17 million transactions in the UK on 23 December, up 16% from the same day last year.

'Fed up'

"We think it's going to be significantly greater this year because people have bounced back from recession," said Richard Dickinson, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents shops in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street.

"Either they are fed up with the recession and want to enjoy Christmas or they are thinking we are pulling out of it now."

The company said only 40% of goods were on sale this year, compared to 90% last year.

Customers were also buying more expensive items such as televisions, as they attempted to beat the increase in value-added tax, back to 17.5% from 15%, in the new year.

Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent expects 250,000 shoppers over the weekend and said November sales rose by 5% compared with the same month last year.

"We have had a tremendous few months in the run-up to Christmas," a spokesman said.

Capital Shopping Centres, which represents 14 regional shopping centres including Braehead in Glasgow, Lakeside in Thurrock and Metrocentre in Gateshead, reported its busiest day of trading on Saturday.

The company said more than seven million shoppers had passed through the centres this week.

The Met Office said that "heavy and prolonged" snow showers would continue through the afternoon across Greater Manchester.


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