Page last updated at 16:22 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Shoppers enjoy car-free West End

west end shops
The West End has featured sales and early opening already this season

London's West End saw shoppers queuing outside stores as the area held its annual traffic-free day.

Organisers say the move to close both Oxford Street and Regent Street proved popular with Christmas shoppers again this year.

West End shoppers spend more than 1bn in the six weeks before Christmas.

Shops offered entertainment, fashion shows, face painting, a concert by Jamie Cullum and even free massages for weary shoppers.

There were queues outside of some stores on Oxford Street several hours before opening time.

Foreign currency

The New West End Company, which represents businesses in the shopping area, hopes this year's event will give a boost to shops despite the tough economic climate and top last year's takings of 100m.

A spokesman for the umbrella organisation said foreign visitors were out in force, armed with stronger Euro and American dollar currencies.

"Europeans and Americans are making the most of the currency," he said. "Selfridges said that spending among the Americans had been up over the last week but it really up today."

In addition to the looming recession, the shopping district, considered among the busiest in the world, is also facing fresh competition this year from the massive Westfield shopping centre that opened in October in west London.

This is the third year running for the traffic-free day, which has proved successful in the past. This year's event has been dubbed 'VIP Day' - which stands for Very Important Pedestrians.

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