Disorganised Christmas shoppers look set to be making a last minute dash for the stores this Christmas, with retailers still optimistic that spending will pick up this week.

According to Paul Clarke, national director, retail & wholesale sectors at Barclays: "Last year, December 23rd was the busiest shopping day of the year as thousands left their Christmas shopping to the last minute.

He continued: "Retailers, in particular the large department stores, are still fairly positive about Christmas spending. Admittedly things could be better but there is definitely no sign of panic.

"The general view among retailers is that Christmas has merely been delayed until next week and that we won't know the full picture until Christmas Eve."

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) retail sales figures for November 2003, published on Friday, reveal an underlying 3.8 per cent volume growth in November. This was slightly higher than the underlying rate for October (+3.6 per cent).

By sector, underlying sales volume growth was strongest amongst clothing and footwear retailers in November (+9.4 per cent).