CHRISTMAS has officially arrived at Middlebrook Retail and Leisure Park as comedian Stu Francis and Coronation Street's Ellie Leach switched on the festive lights with Santa.

Saturday started with a parade of Father Christmas and his reindeer, which took the big man around the malls towards Laura Ashley and up to the stage by Next where he was joined by Stu and Ellie for the switch-on.

The winter wonderland grotto was officially opened and will be available for families every weekend from 11am to 4pm.

Heather Crank-Ingham, marketing and PR manager, said: "It was a really fun family event. We had a great night out with lots of smiling faces.

"Everybody just had a good day and obviously the children love seeing the reindeers, especially the baby one. It all went really well and everyone was so excited.

"Stu Francis was as wonderful as ever. He was really, really good with the crowd and Ellie was brilliant as well.

"The whole day from start to finish was amazing. It is something we have done for the last few years and it is just really nice for the families."

She said that footfall for the day was up year-on-year and she thinks it is one of the best turnouts.

She added: "We are all in the Christmas spirit and for the shopping to take place."

The centre begins its late opening times in December — it will be open until 9pm from December 4 to December 11 and until 10pm from December 11 to December 23.

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