Page last updated at 18:22 GMT, Sunday, 27 December 2009

Sales attract bargain hunters and browsers

Beth Dowden, Rob Girvan, Rachel Stanton
Beth, Rob and Rachel were at Westfield to browse

Have consumers been waiting to snap up sale bargains or is confidence returning to the High Street? The BBC's Alex Kleiderman joined thousands of shoppers at Westfield shopping centre in West London to find out.

London's newest shopping centre was packed with shoppers, but the discounts on offer of between 30% and 70% appeared to be only part of the attraction.

Some people said they had come for a day out after Christmas to browse. They would be more than happy to pick up a bargain in the process - but might be persuaded to pay full price for some items.

Rob Girvan, Beth Dowden and Rachel Stanton, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, were typical of many.

"People often get money for Christmas so you still have something to spend even if you can't find anything in the sales," Mr Girvan, 24, said.

But Ms Dowden said she was "still looking for bargains" she liked and disappointed that non-sale items seemed to have been taken off the shelves in some stores.

Jake Bradley, Lewis Wood, Nathan Jefferies
Jake, Lewis and Nathan had cash to spend from Christmas

Ms Stanton said she prefers to do her sales shopping online as it is "easier to find sizes and less manic".

The waiting areas set up outside fashion brands such as Ugg and Hollister were said to be more crowded than usual, with shoppers standing in line for up to 30 minutes.

Hollister was offering discounts of up to 50% but Lewis Wood, 17, ended up spending the full price of £35 on some tracksuit bottoms with money he had been given for Christmas.

He came to Westfield from Virginia Water, Surrey, with college friends Jake Bradley and Nathan Jefferies.

Jake said: "For Christmas instead of getting presents we asked for money and then go out to the sales and get what we want.

"You don't buy before Christmas because you know just after it will be cheaper."

Steve Thomas, 38, a health worker from Ealing, admitted being more cautious in his spending habits this year because of the recession.

He managed to pick up some luxury pillow sets for half price at Debenhams, as well as some long johns.

"I needed new pillows," he said. "I knew I would find them somewhere, it just happened to be Debenhams.

"But with the long johns I had been looking online and knew they were cheaper."

Next Christmas

High-value items such as furniture are expected to be most affected by 1 January's rise in VAT sales tax. Stores such as John Lewis have reported that shoppers this year have gone online to make purchases before it comes into effect.

Jackie Smith-Williams
Mrs Smith-Williams said the VAT rise did not influence her

Most shoppers at Westfield, however, were buying clothes or smaller items and said the impending increase had little impact on their spending.

"If you are buying bigger items, VAT would make a difference but I'm not," said Jackie Smith-Williams, 43, from Wembley.

She had only bought a hat in the sales, but her two daughters were each carrying bags packed full of clothes they had picked up for half price at H&M.

"If it was not for the sales I would not be here and I'll probably pick up some things now for next Christmas," she admitted.

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