Retailers have stepped up their discounting dramatically in recent weeks, with three quarters of the UK's leading chains offering discounts in the run-up to Christmas.

75 of the UK's 100 biggest retailers are discounting stock by cutting prices or using three-for-two offers, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. Two weeks ago, 52 of the 100 chains were discounting.

PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the number of stores offering discounts in the first week of Christmas is the highest in history, as retailers battle to draw in consumers.

Marks & Spencer is today holding a second one-day Sale, with 20 per cent off most off its lines.

Debenhams began a three-day Sale yesterday, which is expected to run until the end of the weekend.

PricewaterhouseCoopers retail partner Andy Garbutt said: “There are an unprecedented number of discounts. In some towns it is unbelievable.

“Sometimes you see shops buying goods especially to discount. But this year the bargains are real. It is great news for shoppers; they really have never had it so good.”