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Widespread discounting expected as retailers look for Super Saturday boost

By Josie Clarke, PA Consumer Correspondent

Last-minute Christmas shoppers are expected to enjoy widespread discounting this weekend as retailers use Super Saturday to provide a much-needed end-of-year boost.

PwC has predicted that people are planning to shop later and spend less this Christmas, in part because there is one less shopping weekend between Black Friday and December 25 this year.

This is likely to mean stores are under more pressure to increase promotions this weekend as they look to draw in more cautious consumers and clear seasonal stock.

Last minute Christmas shoppers (Aaron Chown/PA)

Lisa Hooker, PwC’s consumer markets leader, said: “We expect to see significantly higher promotional levels this weekend and a bumper Boxing Day sale compared to previous years, with deep discounts for patient consumers.”

The predictions come as retailers end another difficult year after shoppers held off on spending until Black Friday and then exercised caution amid the uncertainty of Brexit and the General Election.

But confidence appears to be increasing post-election, with GfK’s long-running Consumer Confidence Index suggesting a significant uptick in optimism towards the general economy, personal finances and spending plans.

Ms Hooker said: “Looking ahead to December, the election and other distractions heralded a slower start to the month, so all eyes will be on this weekend’s Super Saturday when we expect a last minute rush to the shops, and potentially some big bargains for patient consumers.”

Analysts Springboard has predicted footfall will peak on Saturday at 10% higher than last Saturday and 3% higher than the same Saturday last year.

But this is off the back of an annual drop of 4.4% last year, meaning this year’s figure remains negative over the two years at minus 1.4%.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Consumers clearly took advantage of early discounts to purchase Christmas presents, and are now waiting for discounts to deepen once again in the days immediately before Christmas as retailers do their best to shift unsold stock.

“Super Saturday is once again expected to be the peak Christmas trading day, although with Monday and Tuesday still offering consumers opportunities to purchase last-minute gifts, its success will be more muted than if Christmas were landing on Monday or Tuesday when purchasing opportunities post-Saturday would be more limited.”

The Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City malls said they were expecting the last weekend before Christmas this year to bring more than a million visitors through the doors.

Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer Europe and group director of brand and strategic marketing for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which owns the Westfield London and Stratford City shopping centres, said last year’s Super Weekend was its busiest on record with 1.2 million shoppers.

She said: “This year we’re expecting a similar number of people through the doors, either ahead of returning to work for the final two days before Christmas or before taking holiday to visit family and friends further afield.”

Shoppers visiting London’s West End will see deeper discounts of up to 50%, the New West End Company said.

Artjom Hatsaturjants, head of insights at New West End Company, said: “After the success of Black Friday which saw shoppers making the most of the breadth of discounts, the last weekend before Christmas is set to see 1.7 million shoppers spending £136 million across London’s West End.

“With the General Election now complete, we anticipate sales to reach their peak as the nation turns their attention to Christmas.”