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Retailers brace for Black Friday Christmas shopping frenzy

With Christmas shopping season in full swing, an increasing number of retailers are using flash sales, which offer heavy discounts but typically last only a few hours.

More than £360,000 a minute is expected to be spent this week on what has become known as 'Black Friday'.

ITV News reporter Rebecca Barry has found the sales are already under way:

Shop vacancies fall but north-south divide widens

Shop vacancies in Britain dropped to a three-year low in 2013, although some northern regions saw numbers rise compared to 2012.

Empty shops in Bradford city centre Credit: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Vacancies dropped to below 14 per cent last year, down from 14.6 per cent in February 2012, said a report by the Local Data Company.

But the proportion of empty shops rose in the north east and north west to a combined average of 17 per cent - nearly 5 per cent higher than the average of 12.2 per cent.

Seven out of 10 of the worst performing regions were in the north east or north west, while six out of the 10 best were in Greater London.

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Disabled shoppers 'put off by bad staff attitudes'

Young disabled shoppers reported being put off shopping in the high street by the attitude they encountered from shop staff, a new poll has revealed.

The poll of 500 disabled people found nearly half are being put off shopping on the high street by the attitude they encounter from staff. Credit: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The small poll of 500 people aged 16 to 30 who suffer from a disability also found that nearly half are put off revisiting local shops because of how staff treat them; some said they felt "invisible" after being ignored by staff who instead address their companions or carers.

The poll was launched as the charity's "Trailblazers", a group of disabled campaigners aged 16 to 30, released a list of top tips for high street businesses on how they could provide better practical support to disabled customers.

Shopping a 'military operation' for many disabled

Young people polled by the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign described the stress of a trip into town to buy new clothes requiring the planning and energy of a "military operation."

Teenager Laura Bizzey, from Snape, Suffolk, said that her muscle condition, minicore myopathy, means she "always" encounters problems when out shopping. The 17-year-old said:

As much as I love shopping, sometimes it can feel like a military operation. No matter how much planning I do, there are always problems. Even if I can get into the store, the shop floor can feel like an obstacle course.

I can barely move between the packed clothes rails and steps between levels - meaning some areas of the shop are completely out of bounds.

Even if I have managed to find clothes to try on, nine times out of 10, accessible changing rooms are piled high with boxes. What's the point in having an accessible changing room if no one can use it?

Disabled 'forced to shop online due to lack of access'

Three quarters of disabled young people feel unable to go shopping because of a lack of access around their town centre, a new poll from the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign found.

Poor access in and around town centres is putting the vast majority of young disable people off shopping on the high street, the poll found. Credit: Reuters

Seventy five per cent of those polled said they feel confined to shop online because they are unable to get around the town.

Millions flock to high street for Christmas sales

Millions of last-minute Christmas shoppers flocked to the high street today in one of the busiest retail weekends of the year.

Some stores cut their prices in an attempt to boost sales on the final Saturday before Christmas.

Shoppers in Oxford Street, London as they do last minute shopping on the last Saturday Credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Sally Eden, head of communications for the New West End Company, representing 600 retailers in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: "There's a sense of urgency because Christmas is coming and this is the last weekend.

"It's the first time many people who have been working can get to the shops. There's also a sense they are looking to make their money go further".

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Weekend sales: The biggest high street deals

Major high street stores are dropping their prices for the final weekend before Christmas. Here are some of the deals:

  • Marks & Spencer - 30% off clothing
  • Austin Reed - 25-60% off all womenswear
  • House of Fraser - 50% off selected lines
  • Argos - 50% off selected toys
  • BHS - 50% off selected homeware

Marks & Spencer 'Mega Day' sale 'likely to hurt brand'

Marks & Spencer will discount its clothing line by 30% in a last-minute "Mega Day" sale this weekend, as other high street retailers drop prices to entice Christmas shoppers and bargain-hunters.

However, a retail analyst said he believes that the move is likely to hurt the brand by irritating loyal customers who paid full price in recent weeks.

The retailer is under particular scrutiny as embattled boss Marc Bolland hopes for an improvement in the store's struggling womenswear division.

Whether it will turn out to be worth doing that in short-term, just to try to save the CEO's job, remains to be seen, but the M&S brand will suffer long-term damage.

– Analyst Nick Bubb

Prices to drop for last-minute Christmas shoppers

Christmas shoppers who have left their present-buying until the last minute will benefit from lower prices today, as high street stores slash their prices for what is thought to be one of the busiest retail weekends of the year.

Last-minute shoppers will flock to the high street today Credit: PA

Debenhams, Mothercare, Gap, Argos and BHS are among the big names starting sales early, while Marks & Spencer has launched a last-minute "Mega Day" of 30% clothing discounts to entice bargain hunters.

Which?: Bill will bring consumer law into 21st century

The new Bill of Rights will bring consumer law into the 21st century at last, making it easier for everyone to know their rights and giving people more power to challenge bad practices.

There are many welcome measures in the Bill, including reforming the law on unfair terms and conditions and giving consumers clear rights when digital downloads go wrong. This will be good for consumers and good for businesses that try to do the right thing by their customers.

– Which? executive director Richard Lloyd
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