TILLS were back ringing around South Lakeland today as the January sales attracted shoppers back into the town after the festive hiatus.

The few bargain hunters who ventured into Kendal on New Year’s Day found buying opportunities thin on the ground as key retailers decided not to bother opening.

Although shop chains often use the bank holiday to kick off their end of season sales, with discounts up to 70 per cent, some of big names decided to keep their doors firmly shut in the town.

Boots, Laura Ashley, Beales department store and TK Maxx were perhaps the highest profile openers yesterday, while outlets whose doors remained firmly shut included Marks and Spencer, Next and Burton.

The Westmorland Shopping Centre and most shops in Elephant Yard also remained closed although on the edge of the town centre K Village was open to business.

One Kendal shop that found it worthwhile opening was Bensons for Beds. Retail manager Paul Stockdale said: "We open on both Boxing Day and New Year's Day every year and this year found trade quite good on both days."

Laura Ashley manager Diane Fleetwood said: “Although footfall was quiet compared with normal shopping days, we did more business than last year, which was the first time we had opened on New Year’s Day, so it was definitely worth opening.”

At Waterstones bookshop yesterday, business was brisk - picking up from where the branch left off before Christmas.

Manager Caroline Reece said: “Although staff were in on New Year’s Day doing jobs like window displays, we didn’t open to the public because the Westmorland Shopping Centre was closed, which meant we had no fire exits.”

However, she described the pre-festive buying spree as ‘amazing’.

“The Saturday before Christmas and Christmas eve were probably our busiest two days ever, with takings at record levels,” said Ms Reece.

Unsurprisingly, Ulverston and Kirkby Lonsdale with their predominance of local independent shops remained comparatively quiet over the Christmas period, with many retailers opting to enjoy as much of the holiday as possible with their families.

In Ulverston, the Saturday market was reported as ‘subdued’, with a number of the regular stallholders also deciding to take a well-earned festive rest.