A Christmas shopper shows off her purchases
Monday December 19,2011
By Dana Gloger
HARD-hit retailers are slashing prices by up to 75 per cent ahead of Christmas Day in a desperate bid to get shoppers back on the high street.
Despite December traditionally being one of the busiest times for stores, they have suffered this year because of low consumer spending.
Hard-pressed households are being squeezed by the soaring cost of living with inflation hitting 4.8 per cent and utility and fuel costs rising.
Wages have failed to keep up and with unemployment soaring, Britons are facing the toughest time for household finance in decades.
Sales this weekend were strong, particularly on Saturday – dubbed Panic Saturday as millions finish their Christmas shopping.
More than 600,000 people visited London’s Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street. And other cities, including Birmingham and Newcastle upon Tyne, were also packed with shoppers.
But with consumers more cautious, retailers have started slashing prices far earlier than usual. And the savings could get even bigger this week.
Those who have left their shopping late can expect bargains aplenty both before and after Christmas Day
Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed sales volumes had fallen by 0.4 per cent last month.
But in welcome news for cash-strapped Britons, discounts can now be found across most areas, including fashion, homeware, toys, beauty and electronics.
Toys R Us, Argos and Tesco have cut the cost of some toy lines by up to 50 per cent, while a host of clothes shops have dropped prices.
Matalan has up to 75 per cent off some items, Dorothy Perkins has cut the price of selected garments by 70 per cent and there is a 60 per cent sale at Gap and French Connection.
Electronics retailer Comet has cut prices. And book store Waterstone’s has a range of special offers as has online retailer Amazon.
Gordon McKinnon, director of operations at Manchester’s Trafford Centre, said: “Many shoppers have left it late this year to do their Christmas shopping but they’ve been out in force this weekend. No-one can pretend this has been an easy year for retail but I believe there is a sense of optimism amongst most retailers who are seeing things come right once again at Christmas time.”
But Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, last night warned retail sales in December were expected to be down 1.7 per cent compared to November and 0.3 per cent lower than a year ago.
He said: “Those who have left their shopping late can expect bargains aplenty both before and after Christmas Day.”