Retailers hope for last-minute frenzy as rain fails to dampen Christmas shoppers' spirits
RETAILERS are hoping for a last-minute festive frenzy after a month of flat sales failed to get the tills ringing.
And their Christmas wishes appear to have been granted as yesterday customers headed en-masse to shops across Hull.
The rain may have dampened spirits somewhat, but it did little to discourage people from hopping in their cars or on the busses, resulting in traffic chaos throughout the city centre.
The local picture reflected that across the UK, with many people holding off their Christmas shopping until the last minute in a bid to bag some bargains.
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And with Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, shoppers benefit from an "extra" weekend to buy presents, which experts believe has also resulted in a slow start to sales at the beginning of the month.
Lee Appleton, manager at Prospect Centre, said: "The beginning of December was quite flat and the centre's footfall was slightly down, week-on-week.
"It was only down about one per cent but it was the first time that had happened this year.
"Retailers are also telling me they've had a steady start to the month while some say the run-up to Christmas has been quite poor.
"I believe it has a lot to do with the extra weekend this year, but we saw it starting to pick up around December 10 and now it's so busy, the traffic is still gridlocked outside."
Jim Harris, centre manager at St Stephen's, agreed sales had been sluggish but said footfall was now picking up considerably.
"We were running at about minus two, which is better than the national picture, which is around minus five.
"Shoppers are still being canny and hanging on – they know if they buy a jumper on Monday, there is a good chance it will be in the sales on Wednesday."
However, both centre managers agreed people waiting for the types of reductions seen over the past two years may be surprised.
Mr Appleton said: "A lot of shoppers are waiting for shops to reduce their stock, but retailers in general haven't bought the depth of stock they have had in previous years.
"This means they are in a much better position and able to hold their nerve."
Mr Harris said: "I think we will see a bit of red pen before Christmas but the economic climate has been tough for four years.
"Retailers haven't the same levels of stock, and so they aren't carrying the same amount of coats and scarves, for example."