THE first shots have been fired in the Christmas shopping war, as high street stores announce huge price cuts.
Thousands of discounts worth up to £200million were to be found at Debenhams, which launched a five-day special event.
The Debenhams discounts are likely to spark similar initiatives from rival retailers as pundits predict this will be one of the most frenzied Christmas shopping periods in a decade.
Soaring food and fuel prices have pushed up the cost of living in the past two years and wages have not kept pace, leaving people worse off in real terms. But an aggressive supermarket price war in October helped finally to start pushing down the rate of inflation last month.
Cash-strapped shoppers are likely to welcome the sale, which sees Debenhams attempting to grab the lion’s share of the Christmas gift market.
But its rivals are putting up a fierce fight. The House of Fraser is running a campaign called “Our gift to you”, which sees selected lines reduced by up to 30 per cent.
Although John Lewis is not holding any pre-Christmas sales, it has reiterated its promise to match the price on any like-for-like item.
A John Lewis spokesman said: “As part of our Never Knowingly Undersold commitment to value, we pro-actively check and match the online and shop prices of high street competitors, even during sales.”
For one week only, shoppers can make big savings on toys at Argos. Leading brands, such as Barbie, Chad Valley and Lego Ninjago, are half-price – with a further 15 per cent off all toys when the customer spends more than £40.
Clothing will be slashed by up to 50 per cent during a mid-season spectacular at Asda. And next week Asda Direct hosts a pre-Christmas sale, from November 25 to 28. Asda bosses promise huge savings on home, electronics and sport.
Richard Dodd, from the British Retail Consortium, said: “Customers’ personal budgets are under enormous pressure and disposable incomes are down on 12 months ago. Retailers are working extremely hard to make it possible for people to have the things they need and want, and – of course – to generate the sales those retail businesses need to survive. As a result, we are seeing an unprecedented level of promotions.”
At Boots this weekend, holders of its Advantage card can bag £10 worth of points for every £50 spent in-store or for £75 spent online.
Laptops will be selling at rock bottom prices at selected branches of Sainsbury’s between November 23 and 27.
Wallis is offering 30 per cent off everything on its website, with certain items reduced by a further 20 per cent. Fellow fashion chain Oasis is giving its customers 20 per cent off, online and in-store, from now until midnight on Sunday.
Every year in America, towards the end of November, retailers cut prices around “Black Friday”, the discount shopping day that follows Thanksgiving. Amazon customers in the UK are offered similar bargains as the company’s UK site hosts a Black Friday Deals Week, starting on Monday.
“Looks like there are some good bargains to be had if you shop around” says Greengates Builders Merchants Accrington, Lancashire.