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Christmas Sales 2012: Struggling stores slashing prices by up to 80 per cent

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  • Christmas spending is down on last year, British Retail Consortium reports
  • Around 69 per cent of retailers are running sales or advertising promotions
  • The average discount being advertised is 36 per cent

By Sean Poulter

PUBLISHED: 18:31 EST, 14 December 2012 | UPDATED: 06:04 EST, 15 December 2012

Struggling stores are slashing prices by up to 80 per cent as they launch the greatest Christmas sales ever seen to tempt back  missing shoppers.

The number of customers in the high street and shopping centres is considerably down on last year and those who are out are spending less, according to the British Retail Consortium.

As a result, bargains normally reserved for January sales are available at almost every shop from John Lewis to Laura Ashley.

Mass sales: Nearly 70 per cent of stores are running sales or pre-Christmas promotions

Mass sales: Nearly 70 per cent of stores are running sales or pre-Christmas promotions

A spokesman for accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers said: ‘Slow sales appear to have spooked retailers, causing them to cut their prices.’

Its research shows that 69 per cent of retailers are running sales or advertising promotions in their shop window. The average discount being advertised is 36 per cent.

Retailers have adopted a three-point battle plan to try to boost sales during what is a make-or-break period in the final days before Christmas.

Opening hours are being extended late into the night, with hundreds of supermarkets trading around the clock over most of the next ten days.

Time to find a bargain: High street retailers are being forced to compete with cheaper online stores

Time to find a bargain: High street retailers are being forced to compete with cheaper online stores

Marks & Spencer, for example, will open a number of stores until midnight, and some Waitrose outlets will be open until 11pm.

Most household-name retailers have launched ‘secret sales’ by issuing money-off vouchers and discount codes to be used in their online stores.

At the same time, bargain deals are the order of the day at high street chains such as Gap, Laura Ashley, M&S, Debenhams, House of Fraser, H&M and Argos.

Retail analyst Jonathan De Mello said: ‘We are seeing deeper discounts than ever before.

‘There has been a big drop in footfall that has meant that shops are having to offer heavy discounts to attract people and high street retailers are also having to compete with prices online.

‘Certain department stores have started their sales a lot earlier this year and we are starting to see really substantial price cuts.’

This weekend will be a particularly busy time for internet retailers, although sales will depend heavily on whether shoppers have confidence that the bad weather will not – as in previous years – disrupt deliveries. The British Retail Consortium said the number of people out Christmas shopping was disappointing.

Its research, compiled by Barclaycard, shows visitors to shopping centres down 4.9 per cent on this time last year, while the fall is 0.8 per cent in out-of-town malls and 0.4 per cent in the high street. This translates to an overall reduction of 1.7 per cent.

BRC director general Stephen Robertson said: ‘People who haven’t got spare money aren’t shopping and cold weather may have motivated many to stay indoors and do shopping online rather than venturing out in freezing conditions.’

Barclaycard said it expects retailers to step up their reductions from Monday and a sharp rise in the number of shoppers. A spokesman said: ‘The same week last year saw spending growth shoot up 7 per cent as retailers moved to get rid of remaining stock. Saturday, December 22, is expected to be the single biggest day of the season.’

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