BLACKBURN town centre is enjoying a bumper run up to Christmas and cautious shoppers finally open purses and wallets to take advantage of unusually good cut-price seasonal offers.

The Mall has surprised bosses by exceeding the number of customers during last year’s heavily promised first full festive season.

The market is bustling and independent traders are reporting an unexpectedly good Christmas after a tough year.

Supermarkets in the town are also extending their hours as a final rush for festive food and gifts fills their aisles.

Mall general manager Loraine Jones said: “The all-important pre-Christmas trading period has been very positive for us here at The Mall and we are delighted to announce that we have seen an increase on last year’s record footfall on the run up to the big day.

“Shoppers from all over Lancashire have been coming to The Mall as our fantastic reputation continues to grow.

“We are also open right up until 4.30pm on Christmas Eve so everyone still has plenty of time to stock up on gifts and festive essentials.”

Blackburn Chamber of Trade President Tony Duckworth said: “Traders are happy. Footfall is up on last Christmas after a tough year. Mercers toy shop in Darwen Street is bursting.”

Phil Ainsworth, of Ainsworth’s Jewellers in Blackburn, said: “Lots of people are coming in and we are selling some high value items.”

Greg Mercer, of Counsell and Woan carpet shop, said: “It has been a good run up to Christmas - better than last year and we are looking forward to a good 2013.”

Market manager Keith Holden reported a busy couple of weeks. He said: “We’ve a whole host of activities taking place in the run up to Christmas which will no doubt add to the festive atmosphere and provide shoppers with an enhanced shopping experience including live music and song.”

A Morrisons spokesperson said: “Sales at the Blackburn store have been steadily building over the last few weeks and we’re expecting Sunday 23rd to be our busiest day of the year. We’re well prepared for it though and have put a number of measures in place to help customers get through the store as quickly and as smoothly as possible.”