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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

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Carlisle shops braced for busiest weekend of year

Shops are braced for their busiest weekend of the year as last-minute bargain hunters bag Christmas presents.

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David Jackson: ‘Our retailers are doing well. Many had the best month this year in June’

Retailers are hoping to cash-in on the final few festive buying days – with some dubbing tomorrow “Panic Saturday”.

People appear to have been leaving it later this year before going out to buy gifts.

But the combination of many being paid today and retailers starting to discount items is expected to draw shoppers out in their thousands across Cumbria over the next three days.

Some stores in Carlisle say trade has picked up the closer Christmas has come.

David Jackson, commercial director of The Lanes Shopping Centre, expects this weekend to be their busiest of 2012.

He said: “Trade’s looking good. We’re expecting a very busy weekend.

“We had a really good weekend last weekend, which was up on last year. Sunday was nine per cent up on the same Sunday last year.

“I think we’ll be busy right through now.”

Up to 13 million people nationally are expected to hit the shops tomorrow.

Trade group the CBI this week said sales for the Christmas season have been “below par” as families try to make their budgets stretch as far as possible. Its distributive trades survey revealed the balance of retailers reporting sales up year-on-year fell back to a worse-than-expected 19 per cent this month, from a five-month high of 33 per cent in November.

Recreational goods such as toys, books, games and sportswear were the biggest contributors to the decline and there was also a big decline in sales of “big ticket” items for the home such as fridges and washing machines. Supermarkets have, however, benefited from the frugal spending patterns with the CBI reporting an eighth consecutive month of rising year-on-year grocery sales ahead of Christmas, with clothes sales also picking up 39 per cent.

A huge number of shops could be seen advertising sales on various items in Carlisle city centre this week. Those businesses highlighting varying types of discounts included Greenwoods, WH Smith, Marks & Spencer, Evans, Shoe Zone, House of Fraser and Top Man in English Street.

In The Lanes, sales were also on offer on chosen lines in stores including Jones Bootmaker, Republic, Jack Jones, H&M, Debenhams and Miss Selfridge.

Beadle & Hill, of Carlyle’s Court in Carlisle city centre, is one of the shops which has noticed trade picking up.

Julie Hill, of the jewellers, said: “It was a slow start, but as the week’s progressed it’s got busier.”

It’s not just gift shops preparing for a festive boom.

Butchers and supermarkets are also poised for their busiest few days of the year

Staff at Cranstons butchers, which has stores in Penrith, Carlisle and Brampton, have been working flat out to prepare the likes of turkeys, sausages in blankets and other festive favourites.

They expect to sell about 2,000 poultry items in the lead up to Christmas Day, with their shops opening on Sunday. Christmas Eve is expected to be their busiest day.

Managing director Philip Cranston said: “Indications are from our trading in the last three weeks that we’ll be as good, if not a little better, than last year.”

Graham Jenkins, managing director of Pioneer Foodservice, is also busy supplying domestic customers and those in the catering trade.

Their Carlisle butcher’s shops – at Rosehill and Fisher Street – will open on Sunday.

“As things stand, it’s looking like a good Christmas for us so far,” he said. “It was a slow start, but it’s now good.”

Annual poultry sales will also be held today at auction marts across Cumbria, including H&H’s Borderway at Carlisle, C&D at Longtown, Hopes of Wigton and Mitchells of Cockermouth.

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