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EDITIONS
 Friday, 27 December, 2002, 19:02 GMT
'Strong start' to sales
Chris Brown, 38, from Hornsey in north London, at Hamleys sale
Chris Brown snapped up a junior Mercedes in the sale
Retailers are cautiously optimistic after the first day of the post-Christmas sales.

Substantial spending is needed in the coming week to make up for a disappointing December.

The sales figures will not be known for months but most shopping centres were reporting queues and brisk trading on Friday.

Department store John Lewis said it had queues outside all its stores.

Customers are clearly very interested in bargains

Spokesman for John Lewis
Spokesman Gareth Thomas said: "It looks as if we've made a very strong start.

"Customers are clearly very interested in bargains." "People were saving themselves," said a spokesman for the fashion retailer Next.

Consumers were believed to have been cautious about over-spending before Christmas amid uncertainty over the economy and a possible war with Iraq.

On Christmas Eve sales were 11% down on last year.

'Cliff-hanger'

Shoppers' enthusiasm for spending has played an important role in supporting the economy for most of the past 12 months.

But figures show that may be slowing as customers wise up to retailers and wait for the inevitable reductions.

The shops opened their doors to bargain-hunters on Boxing Day, reported 9% more shoppers than last year.

The message on pensions and savings appears to be getting through and people are becoming more cautious about the money they have got

British Retail Consortium
"Now prices have been slashed as the sales start, it will be interesting to see whether this massive increase in the number of shoppers on Boxing Day will continue," said the research group Footfall which counts shoppers in the UK's largest shopping centres.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) described the Christmas trading period as "a cliff-hanger".

"The message on pensions and savings appears to be getting through and people are becoming more cautious about the money they have got," said BRC director David Smith.

Sales down

The UK's performance is in line with that of the US, where retail figures released this week suggested an 11% drop in sales between the crucial Thanksgiving and Christmas period.

The British jeweller Goldsmiths also compounded the picture by reporting a rise of just 1% in pre-Christmas sales, even when taking into account new stores.

Goldsmiths, which runs 162 jewellers in the UK, said the worst performance was in and around London.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jenny Scott
"We are willing to spend, but only if the price is right"
  BBC correspondent Richard Wells
"Shoppers are becoming cautious"
See also:

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09 Dec 02 | Business
28 Nov 02 | Business
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