Beleaguered retailers are going on Sale earlier in a bid to lure shoppers and boost spending.

Last week, 70% of high street stores were on sale or displaying promotions such as three-for-two in their windows, according to research by PwC.

That compares with 60% last summer and 40% in 2009.

PwC pointed to the early stretch of warm weather and the feelgood factor at the time of the royal wedding for buoyant sales in late April and early May, but said consumers had been reminded of the gloomy economy and been purchasing less following cooler, wet weather.

PwC UK retail and consumer leader Mark Hudson said: “The reaction of some retailers has been to go into Sale early - in particular home and housewares retailers who are having a tougher time due to the subdued housing market.”

The average level of discounts advertised was 45%, the same as in 2010.

PwC’s research also found that purchasing patterns are changing as more people resort to the web for bargains.

Christine Cross, chief retail advisor to PwC, said: “Changing purchasing patterns and the ability to see next season already online mean that consumers may decide to hold off purchases, rather than buy at full price for the current6 season.

“We are seeing a repeat of the 2008 consumer behaviour of using online to find deals and bargains and we expect the rate of shift from in-store to multichannel purchasing behaviour to increase this year.”