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The high street has missed out on a significant boost to sales as the Christmas period began, compounded by the recent severe weather. Like-for-like sales were up just 0.7% in November, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium. 

With less than a month until the VAT rises to 20% on January 4, retailers are trying to capture as many sales as possible before the impact of price rises and job cuts cause a probable post Christmas sales lull.  For some this means an all out promotional attack with many retailers offering big discounts to get shoppers spending early.

Britons are collectively set to receive more than £500m in cash and gift vouchers this Christmas, according to a recent survey. Around 19% of people expect to receive a financial present – with an average of £61 each, this is an estimated £587m will change hands this Christmas, according to internet bank First Direct.