Sales are paying off for Norwich shops

This Christmas is being dubbed the 'most competitive yet' in Norwich as shoppers scour the streets for sale bargains – but high sales figures prove that all the extra work is paying off for city retailers.

John Lewis is reporting increased sales with managing director Richard Marks putting the success down to the store's extended offering following their expansion a year ago.

'Sales are up 8.8pc on last year and John Lewis Norwich had its best week ever (week ending 15 December).

'The shop was busy from the start to finish of the week with the icing on the cake a bumper Saturday's trade at 24pc up on last year,' said Mr Marks.

Pre-Christmas sales are pushing some prices down, with some stores offering discounts in order to entice festive shoppers.

These winter sales started even earlier this year with some shops discounting as early as the beginning of November.

Chapelfield held its first ever Christmas Shopping Evening on November 1 with extra discounts, competitions, money-off vouchers and special offers across its shops, cafes and restaurants instead of its traditional light switch-on.

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Meanwhile, Castle Mall has seen an increase in stores offering pre-Christmas discounts in a bid to encourage people to spend, and for the first time some independent retailers are offering special discounts to entice shoppers.

Womenswear retailer Pure, part of Norwich Lanes on Guildhall Hill, is offering a 10pc discount on selected brands until Christmas Eve, while independent department store Jarrold is offering a range of special offers to keep up with the changing expectations of shoppers.

'Christmas 2012 has been one of the most competitive I can remember,' said Jarrold managing director Peter Mitchell. 'Most families in Norwich are feeling a squeeze on their budgets.

'Our response to this can be seen in our prices across the store as this year we have been more generous with our special offers.

'We realise that many of our customers would prefer to buy a Christmas gift that has a special offer on it.'

Pre-Christmas sales are just one reason why there is an increase in sales this year.

Longer opening hours and customer service initiatives mean that shoppers can be more decisive in what they are looking for, leading to more sales.

Chapelfield general manager Davina Tanner, pictured far left, believes that this is one of the reasons why the shopping centre has seen a busy December.

'The weekends in particular have seen our malls packed with Christmas shoppers, so those who prefer less hustle and bustle when they're shopping have chosen to come to Chapelfield later in the day, shopping until 8pm Monday to Saturday and 10pm on Thursdays,' she said.

'This year we have extended our 'Santa's Little Helper' customer service initiative and we have also put in place extra information points within the centre to help customers with everything from directions to a particular store to gift advice for friends and family who are difficult to buy for. Shoppers are also taking advantage of the free gift shopping service by booking a session with our advisors.'

Castle Mall general manager Paul McCarthy agreed, saying that new services such as their gift wrapping service – which is raising money for local charity Nelson's Journey – is helping increase sales.

'Christmas shopping really start to kick in during October and footfall has stayed consistently up since then,' said Mr McCarthy.

'One possible reason is that shoppers are spreading the cost of their Christmas shopping over several months instead of waiting until December.'

City centre footfall figures seem to agree. Statistics show there was a more steady number of visitors to the city centre this month compared to previous years when there were several peaks and troughs.

Yet last minute rush buying is not a thing of the past just yet. The businesses in Norwich Lanes have noticed trade picking up in the last couple of days.

Norwich Lanes chairman Roger Pemberton said: 'Independent businesses in the Lanes rely on sales revenue at this time of the year and very rarely offer pre-Christmas discounts although there are the odd one or two that do.

'We expect the usual last minute Christmas shopping rush this weekend, especially as people will make the most of the milder weather.'