Christmas price cuts boost hopes of record sales

Three-quarters of shops have sales or advertising promotions – but pre-Christmas discounts not as big as in 2011, says PwC

Widespread price promotions are being offered to last-minute Christmas shoppers by retailers hoping to ring up record sales this weekend.

Three-quarters of shops have sales or advertising promotions in their windows, but discounts are not as big as in 2011, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Shoppers are being offered discounts averaging 44%, compared with 48% this time last year.

Visa expects to process 31.9m transactions on Saturday , or £15,000 every second, as consumers take advantage of late-night and early-morning shopping to purchase presents. Retailers including John Lewis and HMV will keep some branches open until 10pm on what is expected to be the busiest shopping day of the year.

“Despite a cautious start to consumer spending in the build-up to Christmas, we are now expecting the high street to see its busiest day of the year on Saturday as shoppers hunt for last-minute gifts for family and friends,” said Steve Perry, commercial director at Visa Europe.

Gap has up to 60% off; Marks & Spencer has 20% off promotions in several departments. John Lewis has held back from heavy price cuts, although it has offered discounts through its “never knowingly undersold” promise.

Alex Hamilton, an analyst at Planet Retail, said this weekend would be vital for some retailers. “This holiday season is going to make or break some retailers’ years, so I think they will be trying harder than ever to get people through the doors before Christmas.”

Christine Cross, chief retail adviser to PwC, said food retailers face a tougher time as Sunday trading laws mean in effect they lose 17 hours of shopping in the days immediately before 25 December. Cross said: “I’m a little bit worried about what retail margins are going to look like in January.” © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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