Retailers will embark on the biggest ever pre-Christmas Sales drive from now until Christmas Eve in a last-ditch attempt to lure shoppers onto the high street.

Discounts in the shops have already reached unprecedented levels but experts have forecast that the discounting will hit a new peak in the days before Christmas as retailers seek to raise cash in dire trading conditions.

Zavvi started its clearance Sale yesterday while Tesco was knocking off up to 70 per cent from clothes.

Many retailers are launching their January Sales early, including B&Q and Homebase, which are starting theirs on Christmas Eve. John Lewis will begin its January Sale online at 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Marks & Spencer will also start its Sale online, at 12.01am on Christmas Day.

The number of UK shoppers hitting the high street on Saturday – usually the busiest day of the year – was down 8.4 per cent on last year. Sunday’s figures were down 9.4 per cent, according to Experian.

Ernst & Young retail director Jason Gordon said: “It certainly will be the most discounted Christmas ever seen.”