Page last updated at 17:07 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

'Millions' spent on last-minute Christmas Eve shopping

Christmas shoppers
Millions of people have been shopping on Christmas Eve

Shoppers will have spent £951,000 per minute on Christmas Eve on last-minute shopping, research suggests.

Sainsbury's Credit Cards say 19% of the nation's adults intended to do some of their seasonal shopping on Thursday, spending about £1.37bn.

More than 13m people were expected to do Christmas Eve shopping, spending the equivalent of £57m an hour.

Financial data firm Experian said consumers were making the most of this year's final few shopping days.

Major retailers have reported brisk business on high streets and online as people made last-minute purchases.

B&Q, the home improvement and garden centre retailer, started an online and in-store sale from Thursday.

Tesco began an online sale on Tuesday and department store Debenhams launched an online sale at 0600 GMT on Thursday.

We estimate that we've had more than a million shoppers a week through the doors in December
Steven Madeley, St David's shopping centre

Waitrose said sales for Wednesday were £38.7m - £4.4m up on the equivalent day last year.

Meadowhall shopping centre, near Sheffield, reported large numbers of shoppers on Christmas Eve, despite overnight snow in the region.

Centre director Darren Pearce said the weather had little effect on shopper turnout, with visitor numbers for Tuesday and Wednesday being 38% up on 2008.

Retailers at St David's shopping centre in Cardiff said the number of people heading for the complex on Christmas Eve had exceeded all expectations.

"We estimate that we've had more than a million shoppers a week through the doors in December and our stores are already reporting some of their strongest pre-Christmas sales," said shopping centre director Steven Madeley.

Jonathan de Mello, director of retail at Experian, said the ongoing trend for shopping in December this year had been "very disappointing" for retailers compared with December 2008.

"This has led to a worrying spate of panic discounting among retailers on Christmas Eve - traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year - which will undoubtedly impact their profit margins," he said.

"Given this unprecedented discounting and the slightly milder weather, it is likely that this Christmas Eve's footfall will beat last year's, but this will clearly come at a cost to those retailers that don't take a firm line on discounting."

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