TILLS were ringing and trolleys were piled high with festive treats as Hampshire’s shopping centres cashed in on the busiest shopping day of the year.

Retailers were hoping to jingle all the way to the bank on Saturday and business was certainly brisk across the county with shoppers making a lastminute dash for presents.

Malls and supermarkets were rammed to the rafters with excited families stocking up on gifts and fridge-fillers.

At WestQuay in Southampton 200 extra temporary staff were brought in. More than 16,000 cars used the multi-storey car parks over the weekend and bosses were expecting customers to equal their 2011 festive spending despite the stagnant economy.

General manager Andy Collyer said: “Christmas is always a busy period for the centre and this year has been no exception. We’re also expecting high footfall on Boxing Day and beyond into the new year, with many shoppers taking advantage of sales.”

A spokeswoman for John Lewis at WestQuay said the two previous weekends had been recordbreakers in terms of sales and momentum was continuing to build, adding that “another record-breaker isn’t out of the question”.

The Swan Centre in Eastleigh was also expecting to mirror its trading of 2011 and was buoyed by the opening of a new outdoor store, Trespass, which has created five new jobs.

Shoppers were split evenly when asked whether they were spending more than usual in the run-up to Christmas. Some said they had tightened their belts due to the tough economic conditions.

Others said they were gradually regaining confidence to part with their hard earned cash.

Anne Scorey, 68, of Chandler’s Ford, said: “I have spent about the same as I always do.

“I think people are cutting back on their Christmas spending in general – that’s what my friends are telling me anyway.”

Despite gloomy trading forecasts nationally the final weekend before Christmas was expected to be “the big one” with consumers across the UK predicted to spend up to £5bn, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Visa Europe expected Saturday to be the year’s busiest shopping day, with customers spending £1.26bn on their Visa cards alone.