The final Christmas countdown: Behind the scenes at giant supermarket depot as millions of shoppers hit streets hunting for late bargains
Depot in Waltham Abbey, Essex, makes 1,800 deliveries a week to 90 stores in London and two other countiesAmazing pictures give backstage look at 700,000 sq ft centre as British shoppers hit high streets across the UKRetailers aim to lure shoppers out of their warm homes with discounts of up to 50% nine days before Christmas
17:45 GMT, 16 December 2012
These pictures give a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at a 700,000 sq ft supermarket distribution centre as Britain goes Christmas shopping crazy.
Goods were in storage at a Sainsbury's depot in Waltham Abbey, Essex, which employs around 1,200 people and covers the size of eight football pitches.
The depot makes 1,800 deliveries a week to 90 stores across London, Hertfordshire and Essex – and is gearing up for the final weeks before Christmas.
Stocking up: A Sainsbury's employee walks through the 700,000 sq ft distribution depot in Waltham Abbey, Essex, on Friday, as the supermarket gears up for Christmas
FOOTFALL ONLY BUILDING SLOWLY
A British Retail Consortium spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘Judging from the week commencing 3rd December, footfall is building.
‘But we called it a baby step rather than a big leap. It's positive that footfall is building, but it's not in a big way as yet.'
Footfall went up 2.3 per cent week-on-week, but down 1.7 per cent
She added: ‘Lots of shoppers are holding back on their spending in the hope of better discounts. But we're expecting it to follow last year's pattern. Things didn't look so good to start with, but the weekends just before Christmas redressed the balance.’
Meanwhile big discounts offered by retailers this weekend were tempting people out in huge numbers to high streets and shopping centres.
The festive season brought a welcome boost for retailers on the penultimate Saturday before the big day, as shoppers were out in force in London.
Jace Tyrrell, of the New West End Company, which represents 600 firms, said it had been busy at stores such as Topshop, Hamleys and House of Fraser.
She added: ‘There are discounts on selected items of up to 50 per cent, including 40 per cent at House of Fraser, and 30 per cent at Debenhams.
Ready for sale: Goods were pictured in storage yesterday at the massive Sainsbury's depot in Waltham Abbey, Essex, which employs around 1,200 people
SALES BOOM FOR JOHN LEWIS
John Lewis has enjoyed a second successive record-breaking week of sales.
The department store revealed sales last week, up to Saturday, broke the previous week's record by reaching 147.8million, up 11.1 per cent on the same week last year.
The firm's website, johnlewis.com, also hit a new high of 43.1million for the week.
John Lewis said gift buying was fuelling the boom – including food, fashion, toys and technology, but the focus is shifting towards presents for women as sales of handbags, jewellery and beauty products are soaring.
Maggie Porteous, head of selling operations for John Lewis, said: 'With a further nine shopping days before the big event, it is excellent news to have already had two record weeks, both over 140million for the first time.'
‘We've had a strong performance in the West End recently. November footfall was up more than five per cent on the previous November.
‘In a way we are in a bit of a bubble here, with the tourists coming here, so there is a different feel in central London from the rest of the UK.’
Shoppers in the capital's leading shopping hub Oxford Street would have been forgiven for thinking the New Year had come early with the number of stores offering discounts.
Bargain-seekers usually have to wait until after Christmas for businesses to start slashing prices. But those who left buying their presents until today and braved the heaving crowds were rewarded.
Shoppers flocked to outlets such as Primark and US clothing chain Gap, which cut prices by half on selected items.
Braehead shopping centre, in Glasgow, was in ‘full swing’, according to its general manager, Peter Beagley.
Selected shops will be open until midnight from Monday to Christmas Eve to try to catch as many shoppers as possible.
Mr Beagley said: ‘Christmas shopping is now well and truly in full swing. Braehead as a centre and the individual retailers are doing very well.
‘It looks like Santa will have trouble
getting his sack down the chimney if the amount of presents being
bought at Braehead this year is anything to go by.’
Square shopping centre in Aberdeen had a 7.8 per cent increase in the
number of shoppers on Friday, compared with the same day last year.
Hard work: A Sainsbury's employee checks scanning equipment at the Waltham Abbey distribution depot (right), while another worker moves boxes of Volvic water (left)
Busy: The depot makes more than 1,800 deliveries a week to 90 stores in London, Hertfordshire and Essex – and is gearing up for the final weeks before Christmas
manager Ryan Manson said: ‘We had an extremely busy Saturday, and with
the last two weekends being the busiest of the year so far it's likely
that we'll experience another record breaker this weekend.
'Friday alone saw over 50,000 people through our doors – a 7.8 per cent rise on the same day last year.’
David Wilkinson, head of marketing for Bluewater in Kent, said: ‘We are very busy, people are doing a lot of shopping and the restaurants are buzzing.
Watch out: A staff member moves goods stored at Sainsbury's Waltham Abbey depot, gearing up for the final weeks before Christmas – its busiest time of the year
‘People are enjoying our Winter
Wonderland, the ice rink is very full, and the Father Christmas grotto
is proving very popular with younger families.
‘We expect there to be 230,000 to 240,000 visitors over the weekend, and that would be ahead of last year in terms of numbers.’
Staff at children's retailer Toys R Us said they have been experiencing a particularly busy weekend.
Richard Tarbutt, assistant manager of the outlet's store in Cardiff, said new versions of old favourites were proving particularly popular.
Shop till you drop: Festive shoppers were looking for a last minute Christmas bargain today at Primark in London's Oxford Street
Mind the Gap: There was no need to wait for the January sales at Gap in Oxford Street today, where prices were cut in half for some items
‘There has been a strong demand for
Furbys this year,’ he added. ‘The original ones were released some 12
years ago, but the re-released version has been a big hit.
has also been highly sought after. The whole range has always been a
Christmas favourite, but the new Lego Friends – which is targeted more
at girls – has sold well too.’
Stratton, centre manager of the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds,
said he expected today to be one of the busiest of 2012, with an
increase of nearly 50per cent on people visiting compared to a Saturday
Sale away: Shoppers could be forgiven for thinking the New Year had come early with the number of discounts on offer at London's main shopping hub
Price is right: The sales have been stealing the show when it comes to attracting people to London's world famous West End today
‘I'm expecting it to be very busy but
we are up against some tough like-for-like figures from last year as
this day last year was essentially the last Saturday before Christmas,
but we've got another Saturday this year. The final weekend before
Christmas is crucial.’
Shops and restaurants at the Trafford
Centre in Greater Manchester have been reporting increased sales levels
as they enter the final run-up to Christmas.
McKinnon, director of operations, said: ‘It's clear that people are now
taking advantage of our extra-long shopping hours and plentiful free
clearly using the Trafford Centre for a full day out, dining and
shopping under one roof and getting all the gifts they need in one easy
visit – particularly handy when they don't have to pay for car parking.’
Last minute rush: Debenhams in Oxford Street was running its Ultimate Christmas Event with discount prices which ended today
Bargain hunters: Debenhams was promising 10% off beauty and fragrance products in a bid to entice festive shoppers