Christmas shoppers are digging deeper into their pockets during trips to a major North-East centre, according to a survey.

Gateshead's MetroCentre has found that, this month, the amount spent per visiting group has leapt from £92 to £101.50 compared with last December - the biggest increase during a peak trading period in the centre's 15-year history.

Non-peak research carried out in August recorded a 17 per cent increase in people's spending, bringing the level to £49.01 - the highest non-peak figure yet.

Ron Woodman, the MetroCentre's general manager, said yesterday: "We are delighted with the results of the Christmas survey.

"The latest economic reports of imminent recession and the threat of job losses have given some cause for concern. However, the summer and Christmas survey results, and current reports from our retailers, have confirmed that MetroCentre shoppers are continuing to spend."

Mr Woodman put the success partly down to the centre's extended trading hours, from 10am to 10pm.

He said: "December has also seen a year-on-year rise of three per cent in footfall to the centre."