Today to be busiest shopping day of the year

Visa prediction brings good news for troubled retailers

Visa has predicted that today will be the busiest shopping day to date, with consumers set to spend more than £1.5bn on good including last-minute Christmas presents and food.

The credit card firm, which expects to process 33m transactions today, also expects a rush tomorrow, with particularly strong sales between 12pm and 1pm.

The predicted Christmas shopping frenzy heralds good news for retailers; retail sales excluding fuel fell by 0.7 per cent in November from the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics, and chains including HMV and La Senza have been struggling with financial problems in the face of consumer belt-tightening.

"Christmas has been very slow this year, from a retailing point of view, and its really only since last week that there's been much uplift at all," said Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research.

The last shopping day before Christmas Eve regularly sets records; the previous record was 23 December last year.