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Retailers expected to struggle this Christmas

Retailers this Christmas will find it a tough challenge to match last year's festive spending figure of ninety one billion pounds, according to research.

Academics from the University of Oxford say that changing shopping habits, continued economic uncertainty and low wage rates will have a significant impact on shopping this year.

Shoppers get their hands on some bargains. Credit: PA

We have found that overdoing the Christmas cheer with flashing bright lights and piping fast-paced music such as Jingle Bells into stores puts shoppers under greater pressure. Less harsh lighting, pleasant smells and gentler seasonal music such as The Nutcracker are far more likely to put us in the mood for spending.

– Nancy Puccinelli, Associate Professor in Marketing, Saïd Business School

The research also showed that poor selling techniques, extravagant Christmas promotions, and sharp rises in online shopping all contribute to the fall in sales.

Students pay up to £10,000 in rent

Now how much would you be prepared to pay for your son or daughter's university digs? How about ten thousand pounds a year? Providing top quality halls of residence is now being seen as one of the most effective ways to attract students who pay rent of hundreds of pounds a week on top of tuition fees.

In the Meridian region in the last three years alone more than three thousand extra rooms have been created for rent. And it's so lucrative, some private companies are even getting in on the act - one block has just opened in Southampton that charges rent of around £250 a week for its most exclusive student apartments. Our social affairs correspondent Christine Alsford spoke to students at the University of Reading, the university's Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell, University of Sussex student union representative Mark Segalov and student Shlok Sachar who lives in a Vita Student apartment.


How many new rooms for students in the South?

Universities across the South are investing heavily in student accommodation.

Good quality halls of residence are being seen as a key battleground in the fight to attract students.

Here are details of how some of our universities are expanding provision this year: University of Oxford - 200 new rooms; University of Kent - 416 new rooms; Buckinghamshire New University - 180 new rooms; University of Reading - 649 new rooms.

Many universities are investing heavily in new student accommodation Credit: ITV Meridian

The story behind 20 years of the National Lottery

Twenty years ago today the National Lottery was born. It's created hundreds of millionaires and seen hundreds of millions of pounds spent on community projects across the region.

Over the last two days we've brought you stories of how hitting the jackpot changed one family's lives - and the projects that have received lottery cash.

Fred and Sangeeta were joined in the studio by someone who knows more about the joys and pitfalls of winning big - Kathy Garrett, the National Lottery's Winner Advisor for the South East .

  1. Sarah Saunders (@SSaundersITV)

Jackpot winners, how would you spend yours?

The odds of winning are 1 in 14 million ... but every year three and a half thousand people hit the jackpot and become National Lottery millionaires. And 20 years since the competition was launched, more than £53 billion has been given away in prizes.

To mark the 20th anniversary Sarah Saunders met Ted and Marilyn Newton from Kent to find out what it feels like when your lucky numbers come in.


High rents forcing tenants onto the streets

Tenants can't afford the rents Credit: PA

It's never cost so much to rent a property in the south - and many Meridian viewers say they simply can't afford it.

Average rents are outstripping the Living Wage, the independently judged minimum standard of living. In Southampton, a bedsit costs £450 a month, and a three-bedroom house can set you back up to £900.

In Brighton prices are even higher, and campaigners say it's forcing some people onto the streets. A full report at 6pm, with Fred and Sangeeta.

Thames Water settles council tax bills after flooding

Thames Water, through their Loss Adjuster, have confirmed their undertaking to pay council tax bills for the flooded properties in Normandy Crescent until displaced residents are able to move back into their homes. The company’s Loss Adjuster informed the City Council that payments will be made directly to the Council’s Revenues and Benefits service to cover council tax liabilities for all affected properties from 22 September until 1 January 2015.

This position will be reviewed at the end of this year and further payments will be made, if required. For residents who have moved into temporary accommodation with higher council tax bills than the sum that they are liable for in respect of their main residence in Normandy Crescent, Thames Water will settle the difference.

Bob Price, Leader of Oxford City Council, says: “The past couple of weeks will have been a traumatic experience for everyone affected by flooding. “We welcome the confirmation by Thames Water through their insurer that they will settle council tax liability for the period of non-occupation of the Normandy Crescent dwellings.”

Stuart White, Thames Water spokesman, says: “There is no way customers should be paying their council tax bill twice in these circumstances, so having worked closely with the Council we are pleased to have now covered off this significant expense until they are each able to move back home."

New career for TV journalist found sleeping on a bench

Seven years ago, Ed Mitchell was sleeping on bench on Hove seafront. The former newscaster, who had enjoyed a glittering career, brought to his knees by drink and debt.

Yet he was discovered by a journalist and sparked a media frenzy, becoming front page news and even staring in his own documentary, writing a book about his experiences.

After continuing his battle with addiction, he's now preparing a new career as a radio DJ - offering financial advice. Andy Dickenson reports.

  1. David Johns (@davidjohns_itv)

Future of Ebbsfleet under discussion

Architects, investors and political leaders attended a planning summit today to discuss multi-billion pound schemes set to transform north Kent.

First and foremost - the creation of a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, where the first homes are now under construction. Then there is Paramount Park, the vast entertainment resort proposed for the Swanscombe Peninsula between Gravesend and Dartford.

Also - the prospect of a second Thames crossing. And the possibility of Crossrail being extended to Ebbsfleet. David Johns reports.

He spoke to design expert Chris Lamb; architect Sir Terry Farrell; and Councillor Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council.

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