Shoppers defy cold to set Christmas record

SHOPPERS are coming out in force in the run up to Christmas, setting records in the capital and throughout the country.

The New West End Company, representing more than 600 traders in central London, declared sales have been even higher than expected.

Jace Tyrrell, head of communications, said: “We have had a good weekend. We were predicting a million shoppers and I think we are going to smash that.

“I think we are looking at £140m spent over the weekend, which should be 10-12 per cent up on last year.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) also expects this Christmas to be better than last year, predicting £4bn of sales for the week.

A BRC spokesman, said: “I think most retailers will be quietly confident they will have a better performance this year.

“Friday was many people’s last day of work for 2009, so they could go shopping this weekend and they still have time until the big day.”

In the cold weather, bellwether department store John Lewis reports it saw rocketing sales of outwear, hats, scarves and earmuffs, with sales in-store and online both setting new records. The week to 19 December was the store’s third consecutive week with sales over £100m, with this week up 15.5 per cent on last year, with £112m of sales.

Operational development director Andrew Murphy said: “There is a real festive buzz in all our shops as customers are buying last minute presents, with many choosing gifts such as digital cameras and radios.

“The cold weather also means that sales of fashion, in particular childrenswear, are seeing record breaking figures.”