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‘Panic Saturday’ kicks off frantic £17.6b high street spending spree

Shoppers could spend as much as £2.6 billion on cards this Saturday according to Worldpay, with millions flocking to the high street in a bid to buy last-minute presents on the last full weekend before Christmas Day. 

Worldpay’s analysis of spending patterns suggests high streets will be at least 45% busier than average this Saturday. Footfall in major department stores is expected to rise by more than 127% while the volume of transactions in clothing and footwear stores is also set to double. 

Across the UK, residents in Milton Keynes will be hitting the high street in the greatest number, with retail hubs including the Centre: MK likely to be as much as 63% busier than normal. High streets in the North East will also be among the busiest, with footfall in Newcastle City Centre expected to be up 62% compared to an average Saturday’s trading. 

As Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, “Panic Saturday” is expected to kick off a £17.6 billion week-long spending spree on cards, which will have the tills ringing right up until Christmas Eve. And while this Saturday looks set to be the busiest shopping day of the year so far, Worldpay believes card spending on 23rd December could reach more than £3 billion, with the hunt for last-minute gifts going right to the wire.  

James Frost, chief marketing & commercial officer, UK Worldpay, said: “Christmas is the only time of the year that we convince ourselves it’s okay to overspend and our latest data suggests trading in the run-up to Christmas could be up by as much as 7% compared to 2015. Retailers who ignore the impact this intense shopping period will have on their business do so at their peril.” 

According to Worldpay, average transaction values in some key shopping districts rose 25% last year between the 18th December (Panic Saturday) and the 23rd December, as consumers gave up on bargain-hunting in favour of convenience. 

James Frost added: “We’re entering the most frantically commercial week in the retail calendar, so while bargains are a bonus it’s reliability and convenience that stressed out shoppers will crave over the coming days. For retailers this means putting more staff on the shop floor to offer advice, locate items and take payments, alleviating pressure from the tills as customers queue to purchase items and making the shopping experience painless even at the busiest of times.”  

Worldpay’s Consumer Preferences Report also sheds some light on the negative impact on sales retailers could face if they fail to deal with long queues effectively. Three quarters of shoppers say they’d abandon a purchase after just five minutes of queuing in-store. Londoners had the lowest tolerance for standing in line, with just 18% prepared to queue for more than five minutes. Those in the North and Scotland had a higher patience threshold, with 28% of shoppers in the North of England saying they’d wait more than five minutes before abandoning a purchase.