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Mad Monday: Just hear those till bells ringing

Christmas shoppers fill the pavements of Oxford Street
Leon Neal | AFP | Getty Images
Christmas shoppers fill the pavements of Oxford Street

With just less than a full day's shopping left to go until Christmas, Monday looks set to be one of the busiest retail days of the year, with an estimated £2.6 million ($4.25 million) spent each minute as present-buyers play a "game of chicken" with retailers for that last-minute bargain.

Millions of British shoppers are expected to splash out on "Mad Monday," according to payments technology business Visa Europe, spending a total of £1.24 billion on their credit and debit cards. It is expecting to process £862,500 of sales each minute over the course of the day, with £1 in every £3 in the U.K. spent on a Visa card.

"The rush to shop online at the beginning of the month will be mirrored on our high streets on December 23, which we predict will be the busiest day of the year," Jeremy Nicholds, director of commercial development at Visa Europe, said in a statement.

(Read more: Retailers make last-ditch efforts)

Retail research firm Verdict's lead analyst Patrick O'Brien said that Monday – dubbed "Mad Monday" – was going to be an "extremely busy" shopping day because consumers had come to expect last-minute sales.

This is a trend we've seen over the last few years: shoppers are leaving their shopping later and later because they've come to expect a high level of discounting in the final few days before Christmas," he told CNBC.

"It's a game of chicken between retailers and shoppers. The shoppers know they have to buy everything before Christmas – but they also know that the later they leave it, the most likely they are to cash in on discounts by retailers."

And some stores have already given in, with Gap offering an extra 20 percent off some of its sale items on Monday. Marks and Spencer, meanwhile, has cut some prices by 30 percent ahead of Christmas, and department store chain House of Fraser is offering gifts at half-price.

(Read more: Shoppers, rejoice! A license to procrastinate)

Verdict expects shoppers to spend £88.4 billion over the festive period (the fourth quarter of 2013) – that's £1.95 billion more than in 2012.

iPad sold every 10 seconds

Monday's rush comes after British department store John Lewis reported record sales for the last full-week before the festive holiday – indicating that the £7 million it spent on its much-anticipated Christmas advert had paid off.

The chain – which has 40 stores across the U.K. – said sales topped £160 million for the first time ever over the week to Saturday. The total figure came in at £164.4 million – a 31.8 percent year-on-year increase.

John Lewis said it sold one iPad every 10 seconds over the week - "proving that it is once again the must-have gift for Christmas" - and Apple's iPad mini was the retailer's best-seller for the second week in a row.

(Read more: Ugly sweater? Return policies tighter)

In a further indication of what some might find under the tree on Wednesday, the chain said other "hot sellers" included a red women's dressing gown, Junior Scrabble and a cocktail gift set.

John Lewis noted that the way people shopped had changed this festive period, with sales flattening out before the final week's surge. But it added that it expected the last-minute spending rush to continue on Monday and Tuesday, as people race to complete their Christmas shopping.

"It's clear that much of Britain has yet again taken shopping for Christmas right up to the wire," Paula Nickolds, buying and brand director at John Lewis, said in a statement. "Buoyed by this week's record trading, all of our channels are braced for the final three shopping days before Christmas."

By CNBC's Katrina Bishop. Follow her on Twitter @KatrinaBishop and Google