Shops packed in last-minute rush

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Christmas shoppers have been out in force in Leeds

Shopping centres across the country are packed with last-minute Christmas shoppers, with predictions that today will be the busiest shopping day of the year.

With many forced to delay shopping trips due to snow – and with a VAT hike looming – some stores have extended their opening hours and experts believe today could be a record-breaker for retailers.

The giant Meadowhall shopping centre near Sheffield reported packed car parks and stores as up to 130,000 people turned up.

Centre director Darren Pearce said it had been a bumper day so far, although exact footfall figures would not be available until later.

Mr Pearce said: “I would say there will have been about 120,000 to 130,000 people here. There’s been a lot of families getting last bits – all sorts of people, really. It’s gone very well.”

He said the centre’s decision to open until midnight over the last fortnight had been a success. The centre decided to stay open even later following a week in which terrible weather forced it to close on one day earlier this month.

Shoppers in Newcastle have been making the most of a brief respite in the snow to continue spending.

Phil Steele, general manager of the city’s Eldon Square shopping centre, said: “It is very busy. It snowed first thing this morning and all last night but by 9am all the car parks were packed and had queues outside.”

Shoppers were also out in force at the McArthurGlen designer retail outlet centre off the M4 in Bridgend, South Wales.

Bosses at the shopping village, which is home to 90 separate retail outlets, said business is brisk and shoppers “are certainly making up for it” after being kept away from the shops by snow last week.

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