The £1billion sales: Bargains galore as shops offer huge discounts weeks early

Lure: A sale sign in London's West End entices shoppers to spend again

Lure: A sale sign in London's West End entices shoppers to spend more cash

It’s an early Christmas present designed to blow away the economic gloom and get the nation’s shoppers spending again.

Stores are pinning their faith on more than £1billion worth of price cuts in a spate of early sales to get the cash tills jingling.

The savings have seen the cost of a basket of ten top Christmas purchases drop 26 per cent on this time last year, while some items are as much as 48 per cent less, according to a study.

Flatscreen TVs, iPods, digital cameras and laptops are the key battleground of a vicious price war that has embraced electrical chains, department stores, supermarkets and even Marks & Spencer.

Yesterday, M&S, not normally known as an electrical retailer, was promoting £200 off a 40in Sony TV – a saving of nearly a third – bringing the figure down to £499.

Apple also, unusually, held a one-day sale through its website and stores on a range of iPod and iPhone-related merchandise.

But the price cuts are not restricted to electrical goods.

Firms such as Gap have also been holding so-called secret sales by distributing many thousands of ‘30 per cent off’ vouchers to customers.

There are also High Street savings of up to 50 per cent on books and alcohol.

The string of eye-catching deals comes as several big brand chains are caught up in a recession bloodbath. 

In the past few weeks, book chain Borders and the Threshers off-licence group have gone into administration.

Others are expected to follow in the new year.

Yesterday the Co-op group, which incorporates Somerfield, promised price cuts of £200million in the run-up to Christmas.

High Street deals

Previously, Asda has announced reductions of £150million, while Tesco boasted of £250million in savings to be had.

Debenhams is also claiming price cuts worth £250million.

Once the promotions of other stores are added to the equation, the claimed savings will top £1billion.

House of Fraser has been running a 25 per cent sale, while John Lewis has been forced to reduce its prices under its promise of being ‘never knowingly undersold’.

While the scale of discounts claimed by retailers is impressive, sceptics will point to past examples where some prices have been artificially inflated just so they can be knocked down again and passed off as a saving.

But research by the web shopping price comparison service, Kelkoo, has found big savings on popular gift items compared with a year ago.

For example, at £169, a second generation iPod Touch is about £100 cheaper than previously through Apple, while a Canon Digital IXUS 95IS camera is down by 48 per cent to £129.

One of the big factors this year is how supermarkets are attempting to muscle in on the territory of specialist electrical and other retailers.

One study suggests as many as a quarter of this year’s presents will be bought from supermarkets, up from 19 per cent last year.

The Kelkoo UK managing director, Bruce Fair, said: ‘Our mindset as shoppers has changed.

‘We’re no longer happy to pay over the odds on our shopping and the effect of the recession has been that we take pride in seeking out the best value for our purchases.’

Figures from the CBI business analysts suggest the early Christmas sales are giving retailers a much-needed boost.

Its research shows retail sales in November rose at their strongest rate in two years.

Andy Clarke, chairman of the CBI distributive trades panel and chief operating officer of Asda, said: ‘A lot of retailers have suffered during 2009, and many are relieved that the year is ending on a more positive note.

Christmas aside, this December will also be busy because shoppers are trying to beat the VAT rise (from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent) in January.’


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