SHOPPERS in Swansea have been ignoring last month's icy blast of winter and snapping up swimwear in the hope of hotter days to come.
Sales of bikinis, swimsuits, beach hats and flip flops are up 51 per cent at the Quadrant Shopping Centre department store Debenhams.
Holiday bookings at the Virgin Holidays concession in the store are also up 40 per cent on last year.
Shoppers are braving extreme winter weather to make their swim and beachwear purchases early, according to Debenhams Swansea manager James Loxdale.
He said: "The last thing you'd expect to be on people's minds are bikinis when, in reality, everybody's wrapping up warm in thermals, gloves and scarves to beat the winter chills.
"We've seen reports that holiday bookings peaked in early January, so perhaps customers are planning their beach wardrobes ahead this year and are buying as soon as they've booked their break."
Virgin Holidays has confirmed families and couples are also looking to plan their annual holiday in advance.
Johnny Parker, manager of Swansea's Virgin Holidays store, said: "We have seen a surge in people booking sunshine breaks for later in the year recently.
"Families are booking early to ensure they get the best early deal, and many start budgeting and saving for their annual holiday as soon as the Christmas decorations are down."
Quadrant manager Ian Kirkpatrick said: "You have to take your hat off to people in Swansea — you might have expected a run on long johns and thermals, but they have gone out and bought their swimsuits.
"We do have a real outdoor presence in the Quadrant as part of our retail mix and that reflects the area with its fabulous coastline and countryside and sunny climate."
Debenhams in Swansea has increased the sales area of its beachwear section in response to demand.
Mr Loxdale added: "South Wales has been one of the areas worst hit by the snow and perhaps that's why we have been one of the busiest areas for swimwear sales.
"Swansea is right by some fabulous beaches so we do tend to do well for sales of swimsuits and casual wear throughout the year, but this January has been particularly busy."
Debenhams national spokeswoman Michelle Dowdall said: "Bikinis have been flying off the shelves in many of our Welsh stores and in south west England."