No matter how the economy is doing, Christmas will never be cancelled.
Though the day itself might seem like a long way past, the festive season is still being felt in the high streets of our towns and cities.
For most the picture is a positive one, for while the Christmas shopping frenzy took a while to get going, more people headed to retail centres than they did last year.
Whether they spent as much in shops, or bought as many gifts is too soon to tell.
But retail centres say footfall – the measure of how many people visit a shopping centre – is indicating a fairly successful Christmas shopping sales season, given the economy.
In Portsmouth, Cascades Shopping Centre saw fewer visitors this year than last year.
But whilst that result is disappointing, that fall is reflected nationally for the Christmas shopping period up until Christmas Eve.
Cascades Shopping Centre director Rhoda Joseph says: ‘What it means for us is that we went from having slightly more than 10m visitors to having slightly fewer.
‘As a whole Portsmouth seems to be doing OK.
‘Our big retailers came back to us and said, OK, our sales are down on last year, but the regional picture is that we’re not down as much as elsewhere.
‘We have had a good Christmas, no doubt about it.’
Colin Walker, district centres co-ordinator for Portsmouth, echoed Ms Joseph’s assessment.
He says that whilst footfall cameras have been installed in Commercial Road and Palmerston Road shopping centres, the figures have not yet been sent back to Portsmouth City Council.
But he adds: ‘Visitor numbers appeared buoyant, and people seemed to be out in force, particularly in the run-up to Christmas.’
But while footfall and spending in Cascades and the wider Portsmouth area might not have been as successful as hoped, the number of people taking advantage of the Boxing Day sales seems to have increased year on year.
‘It’s been stupendous,’ says Ms Joseph.
‘A lot of people bought the Cascades gift card for people for presents and they’re now coming out and spending them, making sure their money is going even further.
‘The first week of the sales has been fantastic, with our stores reporting they have been 15 per cent over target on sales. It is brilliant.’
Elsewhere in the region, alternative shopping outlets outside the city centre have also been performing well.
One of the most successful has been Port Solent, which has continued its phoenix-like rise from the ashes from 2012.
Not only have its empty shops been let, but it held a Christmas market which helped attract shoppers and diners to visit the waterside centre.
Figures were also buoyed by the many partygoers choosing Port Solent for their festive celebrations.
Operations manager Andy Philip says: ‘We’re really pleased with trading over the festive season.
‘Increased pre-Christmas spending shows we’re really delivering what our visitors want.’
However, whilst spending during the sales is showing that Britain can get its tills ringing again, a warning was issued by Ms Joseph over the longer term.
She says: ‘What is going to happen at the end of the sales, though? People are going to run out of things to go shopping for, and it’s this lull period that is going to hurt retailers.
‘It used to be the case that the sales carried them through until at least the end of January, but now we’re seeing it’s only tiding them over into the middle of the month.
‘This is always the worst time of year for retailers, and we are already keeping a watch to see which ones might not survive in this quarter.
‘It’s very tough at the moment.’
THE shopping success story that is Gunwharf Quays has not failed to impress for yet another year, with even a queueing system having to be put into operation.
It has reported a huge increase not only of footfall, but also for money being spent over the counters in shops and restaurants during the festive season and the sales period.
Sean Sweeney, centre manager of Gunwharf Quays, says: ‘We’ve witnessed a really busy trading period on the lead-up to and after Christmas with a footfall increase of 10 per cent year-on-year as visitors made a final rush to complete their shopping.
‘As expected, Boxing Day was a vibrant and very busy shopping day, attracting three per cent more visitors than last year and staying longer, with our car park operating at full capacity and every day since.
‘Many of our retailers reported strong sales with shoppers gathering outside eagerly waiting for the stores to open.
‘During the day shoppers were queueing out the door to take advantage of the generous discounts, with some stores operating a one-in, one-out policy.
‘Overall we’ve seen a sales increase of 11 per cent in retail and 12.5 per cent in the bars and restaurants compared to last year, which is fantastic news for Gunwharf Quays, demonstrating the enduring appeal of our retail and leisure offer.’
THE rise of Port Solent back to success has been a long-fought battle against the continuing presence of Gunwharf Quays.
For too long it kept trying to compete, and was left languishing in the shadows.
But over the past 18 months or so Port Solent has changed its image and its fortunes and now it has seen an increase in footfall of eight per cent on last year.
There are now more restaurants, many of which you cannot find anywhere else.
And its shops, too, are niche and offer something a little bit different.
The centre is soon to turn one of its massive units – most recently home to its Christmas market – into a large space for boutique traders to cheaply sell their goods.
The centre has been slowly gaining in popularity throughout the previous 12 months, both with customers and tenants.
And even the weather seems to be on side, with great snow conditions in Europe helping Snow and Rock exceed its targets for the past eight weeks.
Operations manager Andy Philip says: ‘We’ve worked hard to bring great variety and quality to our events, and with a bigger programme planned for 2013, as well as our new retail opportunities, Port Solent is looking forward to another bumper year.’
Cotton Traders, one of Port Solent’s newest additions, was on track to achieve its busiest ever week this week.
ONLINE shopping has affected Christmas sales in Havant, which remained steady in the run-up to the big day.
But last-minute shoppers also descended on the Meridian Centre as well as Havant’s high street to pick up their bits and pieces at the eleventh hour.
Jeff Crate, Havant Borough Council’s economic team leader, describes the pre-Christmas period as ‘steady, but nothing spectacular.’
He adds: ‘Of course online shopping is affecting everyone but we haven’t yet had a chance to speak to all the retailers as yet to get their feedback.’
Before the Christmas period began there was a drive to encourage more people to shop in places like Havant and Emsworth.
The national campaign Celebrate An Independent Christmas was supported by the Federation of Small Businesses in Hampshire.
Shoppers were encouraged to divert a proportion of their Christmas spending to their local high street shops rather than in the larger chain stores and supermarkets.
Emsworth saw a 14 per cent drop in footfall for Christmas 2012.
THE shopping centre in Fareham seemed to be the destination for last-minute Christmas shoppers in 2012.
Figures have shown that visitor numbers were up more than 10 per cent on last year for Christmas alone, as people flocked to the undercover centre to finish their festive gift buying.
Mike Taylor, who is the acting centre manager, says: ‘We are very pleased with the Christmas footfall and after a slightly slower start to December we saw an overall increase in numbers over the previous year.
‘In addition to footfall coming from the town centre precinct we saw a big increase in customers taking advantage of the easy parking and access to our stores.
‘The final run-up to Christmas was also much busier than in 2011, and the centre saw a big uplift in Christmas Eve trading with last-minute shoppers up by more than 10 per cent. ‘
And he said the sales were also a boost, adding: ‘The sales also started well with the first four days trading up more than six per cent as people visited our wide variety of stores looking for a bargain.’