SHOPPERS picked up early bargains in Chester when the January sales started on Christmas Eve.

City stores slashed prices by more than 50% in a last-minute bid to pick up Christmas trade.

Footfall in Chester is understood to be down 4% for December, which is still an improvement on the 6% dip in consumer spending in other UK cities.

Bargain hunters have flocked to Chester and Cheshire Oaks over the past week, with city stores reporting a roaring trade.

Marks and Spencer section manager Donna Littler said they have done really well but that shoppers have been cautious about spending money too far in advance.

She added: “This week has been like Christmas used to be. It has been really busy – people have been waiting until the last minute to see if there will be any early sales.”

Curry’s Digital and Boots are also enjoying the festive spirit this year, both smashing sales targets.

Callum Smith, manager of Curry’s Digital, said: “November was slower than last year but this month we are top of the region.

“Our top sellers have been iPods, digital photo frames and cameras.”

Liz Harvey, of Boots, said: “We have been expecting people to leave it to the last minute and they have – so in the past few days we have taken just a bit over target.

“We have done particularly well this week and hope to have taken £1m by the end of today.”

Hawkin’s Bazaar manager Tracey Roberts said: “People have definitely left it until the last minute. Our best sellers have been a Make Your Own Morph and the Mystery UFO.”

One staff member at Woolworths said: “It has been really quiet, most of the stock has gone now.

“Nobody has been in touch with us about jobs at Primark so we are all looking elsewhere – it is a bit gloomy this Christmas.”