Big discounts being offered by retailers have tempted Christmas shoppers out in huge numbers in high streets and shopping centres across the UK.

It meant retailers were enjoying brisk trading on the penultimate Saturday before Christmas.

Shoppers were out in force in London where some of the most famous stores were cutting prices by up to 50%.

Jace Tyrrell, director of communications for the New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses, said: "It's been very busy at stores such as Topshop, Hamleys and House of Fraser. There are discounts on selected items of up to 50%, including 40% at House of Fraser, and 30% at Debenhams.

"We've had a strong performance in the West End recently. November footfall was up more than 5% on the previous November, and sales were up 2.3%, while the rest of the UK has been flat.

"In a way we are in a bit of a bubble here, with the tourists coming here, so there is a different feel in central London from the rest of the UK. This is a big weekend for fashion items, and technology is just flying off the shelves, any tablet or device is selling well."

Dean Stratton, the centre manager of the White Rose Shopping Centre in Leeds, said he was expecting it to be one of the busiest shopping days of 2012, with an increase of nearly 50% on people visiting compared to a Saturday mid-year.

He was expecting more than 50,000 people to visit the out-of-town centre throughout Saturday and for it to be even busier next weekend.

Staff at children's retailer Toys R Us said they have been experiencing a particularly busy weekend - with sales faring well despite the continued economic downturn. Richard Tarbutt, assistant manager of the outlet's store in Cardiff, said new versions of old favourites were proving particularly popular with customers.

"There has been a strong demand for Furbys this year," he added. "The original ones were released some 12 years ago, but the re-released version has been a big hit. Lego has also been highly sought after. The whole range has always been a Christmas favourite, but the new Lego Friends - which is targeted more at girls - has sold well too."