WITH more than a million shoppers visiting the town centre over the Christmas period, retailers are reporting a bumper boost to sales.
Both the Whitgift and Centrale shopping centres said the number of visitors in the town in the run up to and over Christmas was four to five per cent up on last year.
Concerns that Black Friday sales would have an effect on the number of people turning up for traditional Boxing Day bargains also failed to materialise.
David Ordman, centre manager at Centrale, said: "We had about 68,000 shoppers here on Boxing Day, by far the biggest number of the Christmas period.
"People were queuing outside Next from around 5am and they, House of Fraser and Debenhams have all had bigger numbers compared with last year. The centre was inundated from the start and throughout the day."
Andrew Bauer, the Whitgift Centre manager, said on Monday: "We have had over a million visitors over the past ten days and the comments I am getting from retailers is that the average spend is up on last year.
"This year there has been a willingness on the part of customers to really spend, which is the first time for many a year.
"I was concerned that Black Friday would have some effect on Boxing Day sales, but it didn't.
"There was as much interest, if not slightly more, on Boxing Day as there has always been."
It was, he said, a success story he expected would continue over the New Year period.
Mr Bauer said the biggest change in shopping habits was a massive rise in the number of customers using "click and collect" services offered by an increasingly large number of the town's stores.
He said the number of people using it in many stores had doubled, and in some cases tripled, in the last year.
Mr Bauer said: "I think we have had a lot of people who were worried about getting things delivered in time for Christmas if they shopped online.
"We found they had no such concerns about deliveries to stores for them to collect them. They felt very comfortable with click and collect."
He added: "Because of the lower risk I think it is going to be an established part of our retailing mix."
Mr Bauer said the apparent preference for click and collect over online shopping was good for the town centre generally.
He said: "It means people are still coming into the town centre and are likely to use other shops as well."