Early birds can pick up M&S turkey at midnight: Stores to open early to attract last minute shoppersSome M&S branches will open at midnight on Christmas Eve in a bid to lure last-minute shoppersMove came after Chancellor refused to allow large shops to extend opening hours on December 23
07:55 GMT, 6 December 2012
Marks & Spencer will for the first time open some stores at midnight on the morning of Christmas Eve in a bid to lure last-minute shoppers.
The chain will open more than 160 stores early across the country, joining many other supermarkets, some of which will be trading around the clock throughout much of December.
M&S’s decision was prompted by Chancellor George Osborne’s refusal to allow large shops to extend Sunday opening hours on December 23, traditionally the year’s busiest food shopping day.
Battle for business: Shoppers will be able to pick up last minute festive treats from midnight on the morning of Christmas Eve at some M&S stores
As a result shoppers will be able to tour the aisles, buying their turkey and all the trimmings, in the early hours of December 24 for the first time at the chain.
Hundreds of supermarkets will be trading around the clock on most days in December and – like M&S – opening from midnight on Christmas Eve.
At the same time, many other retailers will be extending their opening hours deep into the night in the days before.
For example, Waitrose will open most of its stores until 10pm and some until 11pm from December 16 onwards.
M&S will open more than 160 stores until 10pm or later on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday before Christmas. As many as 14 will remain open until midnight.
This year December 23 – normally the busiest food shopping day of the year – falls on a Sunday. It means large stores are restricted to opening for no more than six hours, which could deal a heavy blow to their takings.
Waitrose has also extended its opening hours in the run up to Christmas
Chancellor George Osborne has refused pleas from a number of retailers to suspend the Sunday trading restrictions this year.
This coincides with the fact that stores are already struggling for sales against online rivals and amid a spending squeeze.
The number of people visiting the shops is running much lower than a year ago, according to figures published by the British Retail Consortium yesterday.
Out of town malls are seeing 5.7per cent fewer shoppers, while the figure is down by 5.5per cent in shopping centres and 2.1per cent in the high street.
An M&S spokesman said: ‘December 23 is traditionally our busiest food shopping day of the year.
‘Last year, aisles were packed with more than 6.3 million customers scrambling to snap up items for Christmas dinner – over 184,000 of food orders, 279,000 turkeys and 1.6 million mince pies were sold on the day.
‘To give customers a bit of a breather as they tick off those last few “To Dos” in the lead-up to Christmas, we will open 49 full offer and 54 Simply Food stores across England, Wales and Northern Ireland from midnight on Christmas Eve.’
Director of retail at the chain, Sacha Berendji, said: ‘We know that the days leading up to Christmas are some of the most hectic for our customers.
‘Due to Sunday trading rules, we can only open for six hours on one of the busiest days of the year.
‘We hope that these early bird hours on Monday will ease the pressure and give busy shoppers a bit more time to pick up Christmas food orders or last minute presents.’
Early birds: Marks & Spencer said it wanted to ease the pressure on customers and give them more time to pick up last-minute items
The BRC said: ‘Today’s competitive retailing is all about offering customers what they want, when they want it. With changing working patterns and lifestyles we live in 24-7 culture.
‘Within the law, retailers strive to open at times when people are free to shop. In these tough times few retailers want to lose out to their competition by shutting the doors on willing customers.’