SHOPPERS braved the cold and rain today to hit the high streets of towns in north and west Wiltshire.

They were out in force in Trowbridge, Melksham, Warminster and Westbury, as well as Chippenham, Calne, Devizes, Malmesbury and Marlborough on the first non-working day since lockdown ended.

The return to the shops marks the start of what retailers throughout the country will be a £1.5 billion Christmas bonanza.

It is hoped that shoppers will 'spend, spend, spend' and buy locally in the run-up to Christmas.

In Warminster, Jane Simpson, 76, from Crockerton, had ventured out for the first time since the second Covid lockdown ended on Wednesday.

"I have been shopping for Christmas cards and a few bits and pieces," said Jane, who was in the town's Three Horseshoes shopping centre.

"I am also going to go to the butchers to see if they have any pheasants.

"I am quite surprised to see so many people are out. It's just like a normal Saturday."

Sally Power, 83, from Fleurs Court in Warminster, was also out sending cards to the United States of America and New Zealand.

"I wanted to go to the Post Office to send some cards off to the USA and New Zealand and I needed to visit the chemist," she said.

"It has not been as bad as I thought it might be. It's been pretty good I queued a little bit in the Post Office.

"I like going to the fruit and vegetable stall in the market. They're pretty good."

Mum and daughter Danielle Reed, 35, and seven-year-old Abigail, from Warminster, were out shopping for Christmas presents.

"We went out on December 2 to get some new school shoes and a meal at The Bath Arms pub.

"We have come out today to get out of the house and to look for Christmas things," said Danielle.

In Trowbridge, queues formed outside some shops, including Matalan on the Spire Retail Park.

Retailers are hoping the spending spree will breathe new life back into the sector, which has been hard hit by the lockdowns and people buying online.

Many big-name stores, such as M&Co, Peacocks, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Debenhams, and Arcadia, which owns Topshop, have closed or announced thousands of job losses after being hammered by the high street shutdown.

Many other smaller, independent businesses and retail shops, have also fallen by the wayside after suffering a catastrophic drop in trade.