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Fewer people visit UK shops on last Saturday before Christmas | Business

Saturday was not so super for retailers last weekend, as numbers visiting high streets and shopping centres fell by nearly 8% on the previous year.

With some retailers accepting online orders as late as Christmas Eve, shoppers now have many more choices about the way they shop and have learned to hang on for last-minute bargains.

More than a third (36%) of Brits have left gift-buying until the last few days before Christmas, according to Argos. It said that 10% more men than women leave gift-buying until very late, with the most popular gift bought in its stores on Christmas Eve last year being an electric toothbrush.

The lower turnout on Saturday, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, came despite a flurry of discounts from retailers in an effort to tempt out bargain hunters after a difficult trading year.

Industry experts said the plethora of promotions on offer since November, and particularly over the Black Friday discount period at the end of November, meant many had spent their money early or were unexcited by further price cuts.

Late last week, Topshop and Miss Selfridge increased their discounts to up to 60% from 40% and 50% respectively earlier in the week, while Jigsaw, Peacocks and House of Fraser increased their price cuts to 50%, matching Debenhams, Hobbs and Oasis, which deepened their discounts earlier in the week.

Marks & Spencer also added knitwear to its price-cutting pile, offering 40% off its key seasonal category, as well as a half-price on beauty gifts offer.

The difficult trading is expected to bring further distress for retailers in early 2020 after numerous administrations and store closures this year. The number of retailers in financial distress in the final quarter of the year has risen 1.4% on the same period last year to 27,000, according to data from the corporate recovery firm Begbies Traynor. Fashion retailers are among the worst affected, with the number in distress increasing by 21% in the past three years to 3,355.

Online retailers are not immune to the slowdown, with the number of online specialists in trouble up by 65% in the last three years, to more than 9,000.

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