Stores hope for last-minute blitz

RETAILERS keeping their fingers crossed for a rush of last-minute shoppers to boost their pre-Christmas takings will be hoping today is the day it happens.

RETAILERS keeping their fingers crossed for a rush of last-minute shoppers to boost their pre-Christmas takings will be hoping today is the day it happens.

On the last Sunday before Christmas the hope for a crush of shoppers in Ipswich was dashed due to Town's clash with Norwich.

And although car parks and on-street parking spaces were full the town was not bustling.

It was, as Colin Roberts, manager of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre, said: "busy but not buzzing."

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Retailers have been reporting a slow run-up to what should be their busiest time and they were hoping it would not be left to the January sales to boost their seasonal takings.

But shortly after midday and in to the early afternoon lots of pavement space could be seen through the main streets of the town centre.

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Shops such as Woolworth's Sainsbury's, Bhs and the Buttermarket Centre were far from empty but not exactly carrier bag to carrier bag.

A spokesman at Woolworth's in Carr Street said the store had been reasonably busy but nothing like they had expected.

"We think it's due to people going to football. We still have a few more days left though," he said.

At Tower Ramparts, the number of people going through had increased by between 15 and 20 per cent on the same Sunday last year.

Centre manager, Mike Sorhaindo, said: "Generally it was a very good day although official figures are not yet through we believe it signalled the start of an upward turn.

"This year has been slow and we believe it is because customers are getting more and more discerning and are holding on until they see the bigger bargains and sales.

"However, we are hopeful for a good pre Christmas period," he added.

Mr Roberts in the Buttermarket, added: "This has been a strange Christmas. Some of our centre stores reported a Christmas rush in October, then November became more difficult and early December quiet.

"Now, however, we believe it will be a situation where despite the strange way trading has gone we will match takings of last year. It has been busy but not buzzing," he added.

Many shops across the country have been trying to entice customers in with discounts and special offers amid reports of slow trading in what should be one of their busiest times of the year.

One theory for high streets across the country being quiet is that workers who get paid before Christmas have left it until they had the money to buy the bulk of their presents.

"A lot of people think Christmas only started last Friday when they got their pay packet," said David Southwell, from the British Retail Consortium. "The big shopping rush will be this week.

"No-one expects this year to be a spectacular Christmas for retailers. That means the post-Christmas sales will be very important."

Most retailers are wary about releasing Christmas sales figures until into the New Year.

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