Tills jingling as Ipswich lights up

WITH sparkling stars, a glittering Christmas tree and even a sprinkling of snow Ipswich got into the festive spirit.The town's Christmas lights were officially switched on in Ipswich yesterday, watched by an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 people.

WITH sparkling stars, a glittering Christmas tree and even a sprinkling of snow Ipswich got into the festive spirit.

The town's Christmas lights were officially switched on in Ipswich yesterday, watched by an estimated crowd of more than 5,000 people.

Live music and fake snow were on hand to give it a festive feel as the celebrations got under way.

The town's mayor Roger Fern and his three grandchildren Matt, 12, Ellie, nine, and Ollie, three, switched on the lights from the balcony of the town hall.

Mr Fern said: "The event has grown each year. The limit at the barriers was 5,000 and they have been closed so there is at least that many people along with those in the roads and outside them."

Earlier in the day shopping stepped up a gear as tens of thousands flocked to the town centre.

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Buttermarket centre manager Colin Roberts said more than 16,000 people had passed through the shopping centre's doors on Sunday more than double last Sunday's footfall count.

He said: "It started getting busy at 10.30am and it has been really busy all day. It is excellent and it looks like we will be in for a good Christmas.

"It has been much busier than a normal Sunday and with the Christmas lights turn on and so much going on around the town the atmosphere is buzzing.

"This is always the catalyst for Christmas shopping and from Thursday we will be having our first late night shopping evening.

Mr Roberts said he thought the cold weather had made people feel more seasonal turning their minds to buying gifts.

Angie Pentz duty manager at the Ipswich branch of Debenhams said trading had been brisk.

She said: "I think people are really starting to shop now for Christmas. Last week was tremendous for us and the numbers coming through the door are increasing and increasing."

Ms Pentz said from now until 5pm Christmas Eve she expected the shop to be at its busiest.

She said: "I can definitely see difference from last weekend. It was fairly quiet this morning I think people have been waiting for this afternoon to see the Christmas lights being switched on.

"We are now entering our busiest time of year."

Meanwhile according to latest market research by Continental Research, more people than ever are trying to avoid the hassle of traditional Christmas shopping. The company said a record 10.1 million shoppers are expected to buy presents online this year.

It predicts average online shoppers will spend £178 each in the run-up to Christmas, generating £1.8 billion of sales.

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