Christmas bonanza for stores

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SHOPPERS in Wigan have been making the most of the thaw in the icy weather by hitting the town centre to do their Christmas shopping.

Early figures suggest that more than 37,000 shoppers were in Wigan on Saturday and store bosses are hoping for similar figures next weekend.

John Sanson, Grand Arcade centre manager, said: “The last two weeks have been extremely good.

“The weather has affected us, but not to the extent we thought it would.

“We had a good weekend and the weekend before that was good.

“It was a bit quieter early in the week because of the cold, but it picked up at the weekend because it thawed out.

“We had 37,000 people through the door on Saturday, which is a good number as we don’t normally see that.

“Talking to retailers, the general outlook is favourable. I think we will have a good Christmas, but we may have issues after Christmas because of the VAT increase.”

Richard Paxton, centre director of The Galleries, said: “Over the past four weeks, more than one million shoppers have visited The Galleries and we are confident shopper numbers will increase dramatically in the run up to Christmas.

“Saturday and Sunday shopper numbers were at an all time high and our retailers have reported great sales over the weekend too.”

Coun David Molyneux, cabinet champion for regeneration, said: “It is the busiest time of the year for retailers and our town centres are bursting with gift ideas for all family.

“We’re yet to get the official figures, but last weekend was especially busy as people caught up after the bad weather. So far this winter, footfall – how we measure visitor numbers – has been similar to previous years, and car park occupancy rates are similar to last year.

“This means we’re doing well for local people, and on the wider scene, Wigan is of course well within the UK’s top retail destinations and the town centre has the lowest vacancy rates in the North West for a town of its size. Thanks to the partnership of traders, council and locals, we can guarantee a happy Christmas shopping in Wigan.”

National figures reveal that customer numbers were up 10 per cent on last year as stores started sales earlier. Experts suggest this Christmas will be the best since the recession started in 2007, with sales reaching £85.2bn.