Town centre shoppers hit annual sales

BARGAIN hunters flooded into Wigan’s Grand Arcade at the launch of the post Christmas sales.

Despite a compacted shopping period of 11am-5pm on Sunday, Grand Arcade manager John Sanson reported that the shopping centre had enjoyed “two superb days”.

But floods of an altogether more problematic nature wrecked the early sales rush for the town centre Marks and Spencer store.

A rapid thaw caused a sprinkler system to burst at about 1am on Monday, just hours before their vital post Christmas sale was due to start.

The store was belatedly due to open at about 10am yesterday after an intensive round-the-clock drying process.

Grand Arcade manager John Sanson said: “The thaw caused problems in Marks and Spencer and, to a lesser extent, in WHSmith too. But, as a whole, we still had two superb days at the start of the sales.

“This year a lot of people seem to have been given vouchers or gift cards for Christmas and are looking to make the most of the sales. I’m sure this entire week will serve us well.”

John Sanson admitted that the pending VAT rise could have had an impact on shoppers’ buying patterns, but insisted it would affect the sale of high-value items more than clothes.

He also reported a change in buying patterns before Christmas - sparked by the icy weather.

Footfall was down by a worrying 40 per cent on the last Saturday before Christmas but the biggest shopping day ended up being Thursday, December 23.

On that day some 35,000 people visited the Grand Arcade for their last-minute Christmas shopping.

John Sanson added: “Some people couldn’t even got off their driveways on the Saturday before Christmas but we definitely seemed to pull it back throughout that week. The 22, 23 and 24 all saw a healthy increase and on Christmas Eve, instead of quieting down at 2pm, it carried on until after 5pm.

“This year definitely shows the benefits of doing your shopping in person rather than on the internet. Some people scored an own goal with that because of delivery problems.”