Sales of coats, jackets and thermal underwear are booming and bookings for hotpot dinners are heavy in anticipation of bleak weather in the next few days. Business operators are rubbing their hands over soaring sales that have accompanied the plunging temperatures, brought by a cold front in the North China Sea and an associated winter monsoon. But because of the late arrival of the cold weather they may not make as much as they would have if the cold snap had arrived in mid-December because year-end sales have started. Retailer Marks and Spencer expects winter clothing sales to double in the next couple of days, with minimum temperatures of around 10 degrees Celsius or lower and maximums in the low teens. A spokeswoman said that yesterday alone, sales of coats were up 82 per cent on last week. 'Sales of jackets also increased by 75 per cent yesterday compared to last week,' she said. 'We are very confident that total sales of winter clothes will double over the next few days. Thermal underwear will be the most popular item.' A spokeswoman for the Sincere department store could not predict sales, but expected they would rise. Hong Kong Retail Management Association executive director Anita Bagaman said shops selling electronic appliances and winter clothes would definitely benefit, although not as much as if winter had arrived earlier. 'Most shops have started their sales already, so the margin is lower,' she said. 'But at least shops can clear their inventories. If the cold weather lasts until Chinese New Year, the benefits could be bigger.' Hotpot chain Little Sheep managed to catch the cold weather with its new Tsim Sha Tsui outlet opening yesterday. A spokesman said bookings had to be made three days ahead. 'We only have three sessions, 6.30pm, 8.30pm and 10.30pm, because we cannot handle any more customers,' said the spokesman. 'Bookings have been strong since Christmas, but all tables for New Year's Eve are booked out already. We are confident that our business will be better than Christmas.' Hot Pot City in Causeway Bay said its staff members had been asked to cancel their holidays to cope with the expected heavy workload over the next few days. With temperatures plunging as low as nine degrees last night, the Observatory was predicting a minimum of 12 tomorrow and nine on New Year's Day before the weather warmed gradually next week.