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Early sales this year

Bargains to be had from Christmas Eve onwards

Shoppers will enjoy unprecedented reductions from Christmas Eve as retailers face up to the prospect
of a gloomy 2009, analysts have said.

Shoppers at Christmas in a shopping mall

Stores are launching their traditional Boxing Day sales up to 48 hours early in a bonanza for shoppers already enjoying a heavily discounted high street. A growing list of major stores have announced discounts of 50% or more in sales to start as early as 7am on Christmas Eve.

But reduced prices doesn’t mean reduced shopping rights. Find out your rights when shopping in sales with Which?s handy guide. The December money podcast from Which? also has good advice on returning unwanted or faulty goods and on whether extended warranties are worth it.

Big names, small prices

DIY chain B&Q will offer 50% off all its kitchens and bathrooms from 7am on Wednesday in stores and online, with discounts of up to 75% on some other items.

John Lewis will start its clearance sale online at 6pm on Christmas Eve – the earliest it has ever held the sale – while chemist chain Superdrug will also start an online sale a few hours later at midnight on December 24 with discounts of up to 90%.

Many stores reported a surge in sales at the weekend as people ventured on to high streets and into malls to snap up bargains. Fiona Wilkinson, senior vice president at Visa Europe, said: “Consumers have proven this weekend that they are prepared to postpone their shopping until the last minute in order to take advantage of the many bargains now available on the high street.”

Looking ahead

Matthew Sherwood, senior economist at analysts Experian, said: “The state of the market is not good, needless to say. We’re looking at one of the worst retail environments in terms of the Christmas shopping season in probably somewhere around 17 years, certainly since the last recession.

“If you look at footfall numbers they are well down on last year, somewhere in the double digit ranges. Certainly consumers are staying at home.

Sherwood said retailers’ prospects for next year looked similarly poor. “In terms of 2009 I don’t see too much hope. I think it’s going to be a very bad year for retailers and we’re likely to see more announcements like we’ve seen with Woolworths and MFI,” he said.

Last-minute shopping

Traders said they were hopeful this weeks’ sales surge would continue through to Christmas Eve. A spokesman for Capital Shopping Centres, which has interests in 14 regional shopping centres, including MetroCentre in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Lakeside in Essex said: “Being the last weekend before Christmas Day, panic shopping happened.

“Customers have been trying to find good bargains for Nintendo Wiis, laptops and cameras. Demand for pyjamas and slippers have also been high.”

Andrew Parkinson, general manager of Bluewater in Kent, said: “With Christmas Day falling on Thursday this year, retailers were expecting a peak in sales over the weekend and it’s expected to last through until Christmas Eve with many people cramming in last-minute shopping.”

© Press Association 2008

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