By Rebecca Burn-Callander Monday, 24 December 2012

Last-minute shoppers splash £5bn this weekend, says BRC

Over the last two days, millions hit the high street to stock up on prezzies, food and booze.

We've all been there. With just a few days to go till the big day, one realises with horror that one hasn't bought a single Christmas present.

This weekend, these last-minute shoppers brought some festive cheer to the high street, spending an estimated £5bn, according to the British Retail Consortium. On Saturday alone, consumers made 31 million transactions, reckons Visa Europe. Although Sainsbury's said that Sunday, between noon and 1pm, was its busiest hour ever in terms of the number of customers served.

Still even these eleventh-hour billions fall short of the high hopes of UK retailers. Christmas sales figures are likely to be 'acceptable' rather than 'exceptional', sniffs the BRC.

Indeed, new figures from business recovery firm Begbies Traynor show that nearly 140 retailers are currently in 'critical condition' despite the traditional Christmas trading peak. In its latest UK business solvency survey, 13,700 more firms were found to be in distress, up 35% on the last quarter.

With many retailers expecting their next quarterly rent payment bill on December 25, this may not be a Merry Christmas for all: Begbies Traynor predicts a widespread rise in the number of both national and regional retail insolvencies in the beginning of next year.

The worst affected retailers include: specialists in books, news and stationery, where distress signals were 85% higher on the previous quarter. However, online retailers, supermarkets and shops selling decor and household goods have seen sales figures improve.

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