SHOPPERS in Crowthorne and Sandhurst are spending more cash than ever this Christmas — despite fears over the economy.

In the face of predictions of a worldwide recession, they have decided to spend freely for the festive season.

Financial analysts say it could be down to low interest rates, with mortgage holders having more disposable income than in previous years.

Mary Flavelle, spokesman for the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce, said: "Some stores and shopping centres are reporting a 30 per cent increase on people walking through their doors and parting with cash - the tills are certainly ringing out for Christmas.

"It's all because people have got more spending money and businesses are going to have a very good Christmas."

Brian Kee, manager of Somerfields' branch in Crowthorne High Street, said business in the village was booming.

He said: "Since having the £1.3 million refit in July, we have seen 3,500 more customers per week than last year and have created 40 more jobs in the store.

"During the festive period this number has increased even more, and I am confident it will continue to get better next year".

Carol Zuccaro, spokesman for the Crowthorne Traders' Association, said: "I think trade has been good and the late-night shopping on December 7 was very successful for all the traders, although problems with parking was a bit of a drawback.

"This year all the traders have made a really big effort by decorating their windows and the Christmas lights have made the village more inviting.

"Following the events of September 11, I think people are saying to themselves, ‘after all that has happened, let's make this one of the best Christmases we can have'."