Thursday December 23 is set to be the busiest-ever shopping day in the UK as consumers scramble to make last-minute Christmas purchases.
In both 2008 and 2009, December 23 was the busiest shopping day of the year, and with Christmas Day set to fall on a Saturday, it is also expected to be the top day for high street shopping in 2010, according to payment card group Visa Europe.
The group expects people to spend an average of £833,000 a minute or nearly £14,000 a second on the day.
It said research suggested that most people planned to spend more on Christmas this year than they did in 2009, while the looming VAT hike meant consumers were also likely to bring forward the purchase of big-ticket items.
Total spending was up 1.5% year-on-year during the week to the end of Sunday December 19. But within the total, high street spending was down by 0.3%, while online spending soared by 11.3%, as the winter weather kept people indoors.
But high street spending levels are expected to have bounced back by December 23, as people opt to pick up gifts themselves, rather than risk them not being delivered in time for Christmas.
Overall, the group expects to process around 26.5 million transactions worth more than £1.2 billion on December 23.
Dr Steve Perry, commercial director at Visa Europe, said: “While the weather has affected some people, our data shows that despite a cautious start to the spending season in November, spending has been strong in the lead-up to the busiest high street shopping day.
“With VAT set to rise from 17.5% to 20% in January, consumers are bringing forward big-ticket purchases this month which has given a boost to spending levels.
“Extended opening hours and heavy discounting are likely to draw in the crowds and capture those who prefer to see and feel their products prior to purchasing.”