10/12/2011 12:49 GMT | Updated 09/02/2012 10:12 GMT

Christmas Shopping: Sales Come Early As Retailers Try To Rescue Christmas

Queues have formed outside high street stores as retailers launched their sales early in a bid to entice Christmas shoppers to part with their cash.

Retailers across the UK were pinning their hopes on early sales bargains boosting their takings on what is traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Store chains including Marks & Spencer, fashion retailer French Connection and shoe chain Barratts were offering discounts of up to 50% designed to get people spending.

Traders in Oxford Street and Regent Street in central London forecast £150 million in sales this weekend, with both streets pedestrianised to attract shoppers.

A spokeswoman for the the New West End Company, which represents 600 traders in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said: "There have been queues outside John Lewis, Selfridges and Marks & Spencer.

"The first trading started a minute after shops opened at 9.30 this morning and the cold weather is forcing people into the shops."

Tim Walley, general manager at the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham, said: "Following a busy opening December weekend at the centre we expect to see in the region of 220,000 shoppers visit Bullring today.

"We expect to see a further 120,000 shoppers tomorrow."

Nick Coppock, retail relations manager at thecentre:mk in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, said the mood was positive among retailers with very buoyant sales thanks to the clear weather.

"We had quite a few stores open early today to maximise sales and we're expecting this to be the peak weekend for actual retail."