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West End sees ‘biggest spending weekend’ as Christmas nears

Shoppers braved the wind and rain to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire Shoppers braved the wind and rain to do some last minute Christmas shopping. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Sunday, December 23, 2012
9:56 AM

Christmas shoppers are expected to take up their final opportunity to pick up food and last-minute presents in time for the big day.

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Yesterday is expected to have become the busiest day of the year on London’s high streets.

Sainsbury’s has recruited an extra 20,000 staff and sent 2,000 office workers to the shop floor to help meet demand this weekend.

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “December 23 is always the busiest day for Christmas shopping, so to have it condensed into six hours will obviously pose challenges.”

Sainsbury’s expects to sell 225,000 bottles of champagne this weekend, and this Christmas will sell 90,000 turkeys, half a million kilograms of Christmas cheese, 6,500 tonnes of potatoes and 52 million sprouts.

Consumers are predicted to spend up to £5 billion over the course of the weekend as many retailers opened their doors until 11pm.

Crowds flocked to London’s West End braving wet and blustery conditions to make the most of early sales and discounts.

Streets were teeming with people in the capital - where Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street were among the busiest hotspots - and queues built up outside some shops before they opened their doors.

The British Retail Consortium said yesterday would be the busier of the two days - primarily because of longer opening hours.

Spokesman Richard Dodd said: “There is no question that this will be the biggest spending weekend in the run-up to Christmas and therefore the biggest retail weekend.

“It’s been a slow start for retailers because, whilst shopper numbers have been building week by week, they have been consistently down on 12 months ago.”

But at Brent Cross shopping centre in north London, bosses said sales were likely to be bigger than ever before.

Centre manager Tom Nathan said: “With Christmas falling on Tuesday this year, and with schools breaking up late this year, this weekend is set to be the busiest shopping period, as more people leave their shopping later and later to buy gifts.

“These four days are predicted to be enormous for us in terms of sales - bigger than it’s ever been.”

But the Local Government Association (LGA) said confidence on the high street remained low.

Its annual Christmas survey found that 84 per cent of town centre managers said confidence among shoppers had either not improved or worsened compared with this time last year.

The LGA suggested that the particularly cold and wet start to the winter could also be taking its toll on the number of shoppers visiting town centres.

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