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Bexley shops banking on last minute Christmas rush

PUBLISHED: 09:00 21 December 2013

Customers Magaret and Ernie Richards being served by Dilip Shah in his store

Customers Magaret and Ernie Richards being served by Dilip Shah in his store

Archant

As people browse retailers' websites searching for Christmas presents for their friends and family, they are enticed by a host of offers and deals as early as the start of December - making the traditional January sales a thing of the past.

Christine Barton with SantaChristine Barton with Santa

So how do the shopping centres and high street stores deal with the increasing number of people taking to the internet to do their annual gift buying?

The Broadway Shopping Centre in Bexleyheath has decades of experience of the Christmas rush, having first opened almost 30 years ago, and Christine Barton, its retail co-ordinator, still believes “there is no need for anyone to go any further than their local shopping centre”.

She says: “Shoppers can get everything they need for a fabulous festive season all under one roof.

“The moment you enter the mall, the ambience and aromas from the coffee shops and the tactile experiences from touching and trying merchandise, together with the personal touch you get while shopping in stores, will always outweigh online shopping.”

According to reports from IMRG, an association of online retailers, and management consultants Capgemini, online sales to UK consumers will top £10billion this month for the first time.

They also predicted that last week would prove to be the peak period for sales on the internet.

According to Christine however, the last-minute buying period and the post-Christmas Day frenzy are still the busiest periods for in-store sales.

She adds: “This weekend is expected to be exceptionally busy with last-minute shopping. And the week after, when shoppers have money and gift cards to spend in the sales, will be too.”

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, says the increase in delivery options for online buyers was a contributing factor in the predicted record-breaking sales.

She explains: “We are seeing a number of retailers ramping up their online offering in the run-up to Christmas. Click & Collect, next-day delivery and even one-hour delivery slots are some of the options on offer to attract the festive shopper at this highly competitive time of year.”

Dilip Shah, the owner of Gallery Gifts, an independent store in the Broadway, believes businesses such as his are no longer able to compete with the larger retailers and their early sales.

“Obviously, online retailing has been affecting sales for six or seven years now. We decided to start a website and often have little promotions on there,” he says.

“Our sales opened on Boxing Day last year for the first time and this year we will do the same. We also extended our opening times to 9am to 9pm for the two weeks before Christmas.

“But these days, customers have got the grasp of the early December sales online.”

Another e-retail report predicts that a whopping £2.9bn will be spent through mobile devices this December, which is more than double last year’s total.

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said: “If we thought the first decade of the 21st century had turned the world of retail upside down, the second decade is likely to feel like we are inside a tumble dryer.”

n How are you doing your Christmas shopping this year? Do you still prefer the experience of shopping in store or are you a convert to the modern online method? Let us know by e-mail to sam.gelder@archant.co.uk

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