TRADERS are bracing themselves for a Christmas cracker this weekend.
With just three shopping days left until Christmas, retailers are keeping their fingers crossed for an early present.
Sunderland’s Bridges centre is preparing for its busiest weekend of the year, with centre director Andy Bradley predicting a record numbers of shoppers.
“The start of the Christmas shopping season over the last few weeks has been increasingly busy, but we’re preparing for a last-minute rush this weekend as shoppers receive their final pre-Christmas pay cheques and go on one last push to complete their Christmas shopping,” he said.
“For those shoppers who wanted to get ahead of the game, our 9am to 9pm late night shopping during the week has proved popular, along with free parking from 6 to 9pm.
“I do think Christmas shopping starts earlier each year, and there is no doubt consumers are taking their time to shop around for best prices before making their purchases.
“We’ve been working hard all year to create the right retail mix within the centre to ensure we have a diverse mix of leading retailers, and we will continue to work hand in hand with retailers to strengthen the diversity of stores for our shoppers.
“The latest retailer to launch in the centre was Primark, which has been phenomenally busy and popular with Sunderland shoppers.
“Hundreds of people attended the launch and it’s been a huge attraction ever since. The new entrance has also made a massive difference to the mall, with all retailers reporting a surge in footfall.”
David McNee, manager of Washington Galleries, said: “We are anticipating this will be a big weekend.
“Food shopping is a big part of our business, with the two supermarkets, so we are expecting to be busy across the weekend.
“Footfall is up on last year. In the week ending December 10, we had just over 300,000 people coming through the doors and we expect there to have been more than that since, so we are well ahead of last year in terms of people coming out shopping.”
Shoppers are still spending, but are being more discerning rather than splash the cash.
“Value shopping is doing well, but people are coming in and focusing on what they want,” said David.
“People are definitely being more selective, and it is important to understand for some retailers, overall volume is going to be down.”
Jerry Hatch, manager of Murton’s Dalton Park discount outlet, is predicting footfall will peak today.
“I expect Sunday to ease off for us because I think people will be concentrating on food shopping,” he said. “I know the supermarkets are gearing up because they have to pack a whole day’s business into six hours.”
Jerry is expecting a mini-rush on Monday as those who have left it later than late.
“Christmas Eve is usually busy for us, with dads doing their last-minute bits and pieces,” he said.
Trading has been brisk for weeks.
“The weather has been kind this year,” said Jerry.
“We were 10 per cent up on last year during October and November. and we are six per cent up on last year in the first two weeks of December.
“It has been a really positive Christmas trading period for us.”
Seaham’s Byron Place has also seen a rise in numbers, though it has been steady, rather than spectacular.
“It has been a little bit slow picking up this year but the car park is full, which is always a good sign,” said boss John Brady.
“I think this weekend will be one of the best of the year. We are expecting about 10,000 people to come through the doors, which for a small town like Seaham, is pretty good going.”