Business booming at festive sales

BARGAIN hunters provided traders across the region with a post-Christmas boost as the festive sales got into full swing.

BARGAIN hunters provided traders across the region with a post-Christmas boost as the festive sales got into full swing.

National figures released yesterday revealed a 17.9% increase in the number of shoppers on Sunday compared to a year ago - the highest rise on record for December 27.

High streets were bustling again yesterday as shoppers turned out in force on the Bank Holiday - with businesses across the region reporting a roaring festive trade.

They will be hoping that the boost in trade provides a springboard for 2010 as the country comes out of recession.

Big name chains reported stores had been heaving as eager spenders swoop to grab deals ahead of the return to 17.5% VAT on January 1.

Large electrical items and jewellery have been hot favourites as savvy shoppers take advantage of the 2.5% tax saving.

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Paul Clement, director of Ipswich Central, the management company for businesses in the town centre, said confidence was returning to the High Street.

“There has been more optimism this year. Consumers have been willing to spend and that has come through in sales,” he said.

“People are also trying to purchase ahead of the VAT increase. If you are going to buy something significant, it is better to have that 2.5 per cent in your pocket rather than the Chancellor's.”

Mr Clement said that the snow and ice before Christmas may have kept people at home, and many had ventured out once the weather had improved.

He added: “The sales have been significantly better than some retailers hoped for.

“People are more positive than this time last year. The recession wasn't as bad as some people feared it would be and the High Street has managed to come through it.

“People have got a much better feeling going into 2010 than 2009.”

Paul Haynes, manager of the Arc shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds, said December 27 had been their busiest Sunday since the centre opened in March.

“Sales were brisk in the shops, with many hitting new sales records and visitor numbers for a Sunday,” he said.

“December saw thousands of visitors to the centre, which is great news for trade in Bury town centre as a whole.

“By keeping trade within the town centre, where it belongs, Bury has built upon its existing strong reputation as a unique and varied shopping destination for the region and the arc team are delighted to be playing our part.”

Shoe shop Clarks said that its sales had tripled since moving out of a smaller shop in Bury and in to the Arc centre and other shops at the centre also reported that they had exceeded sales targets over the Christmas period.

A spokeswoman for Next in Bury said: “It was fantastic - we smashed our target and it has been manic since the sales began.”

Kevin Robertson, sales director for Glasswells World of Furniture, said its stores in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds stores had smashed targets for the festive period.

“We have been very busy and had an encouraging first few days,” he said. “Those who are out to buy are serious and they are a lot more positive out there than this time last year. My gut feeling is there are more people around and they are spending.”

Andrew Lubran, spokesman for Colchester Retail and Business Association (CORBA), said the first two sale days had been very busy.

He said: “The atmosphere is good, there are plenty of people about. I think people have been keeping hold of the purse strings waiting for the sales and now they have headed straight for the shops.”

Mr Lubran, who runs Asian import shop Artasia in Crouch Street, added: “It has been a terrible year for retail there is no doubt about it, and people are definitely more careful with their money.

“But where I am standing now I can see hundreds of people with shopping bags full to the brim.”

Lorraine Barnett, sales and marketing director for Williams and Griffin department store in Colchester, said it had enjoyed two “exceptionally good” sale days.

Miss Barnett said last night: “Because the 27th was a Sunday we expected it to be slightly affected and down on last year as we could only open for six hours as opposed to a full day trading.

“But we were astounded by the number of people in store and at one point there were 50 or 60 people queuing out the front of the store waiting to get in.

“We have had another exceptionally good day today, we are really, really pleased with it.

“Christmas was also a record week here so we are feeling very optimistic.”

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