Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Christmas Comes Late for Stores as Shoppers Finally Start to Dig Deep

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Christmas Comes Late for Stores as Shoppers Finally Start to Dig Deep

Article excerpt


A ROBUST spending surge is giving retailers cause for festive cheer this week.

Although the annual blitz of gift-buying got underway later than usual, shoppers are digging deep in their pockets despite concerns about the economy and international events.

With five shopping days left before Christmas, retailers are hoping that this week's frenzy heralds a last-minute spree that will push overall spending to last year's levels. Nearly [pound]26 billion will be spent during December, according to independent retail consultants Verdict.

Sally Humphreys, director of the Oxford Street Association, said: "Trading is very strong and retailers hope it will be a bumper Christmas. Yesterday there was a 30-minute queue for Selfridges' car-park, which is always my barometer for how many people are out shopping.

"Obviously, we're not getting the tourists right now but British shoppers are returning to the West End in droves."

Destination shopping centres like Bluewater in Kent, Lakeside Thurrock and the City's new Royal Exchange development are also doing well. Bluewater expects overall takings in the eight weeks before Christmas to rise by 10 per cent this year to [pound]220 million. A spokesman said: "Sales figures were up by 13.4 per cent last month, compared to the same time last year. Last week was the busiest this year, with over 700,000 shoppers visiting."

Retailers at the Royal Exchange - including Tiffany, Gucci, Cartier and Paul Smith - are surprised at the large sums being spent by City shoppers, and at how quickly the development has taken off since trading started a month ago.

Spending on luxuries is remarkably buoyant, perhaps because people feel in need of pampering after a tough year.

Nigel Wreford-Brown, merchandise director of John Lewis, said: "Luxury spoil-me items such as diamonds, cashmere and perfumery are selling well.

Mr Wreford-Brown added: "Jewellery is up by as much as 40 per cent on last year.

Electronics are also doing well, especially widescreen televisions, DVD players and hi-fi systems."

He said shoppers were holding back on fashion purchases in anticipation of bargains in the post-Christmas sales. …

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