Boxing Day sales: Shoppers flock to stores


Shoppers queued outside Selfridges, London, grappling for bargains once the doors opened

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Shoppers have flocked to stores across the UK for the Boxing Day sales.

Thousands of bargain-hunters queued overnight at shopping centres, as shops began cutting prices and opening as early as 06:00 GMT to tempt customers.

A survey suggested shoppers will spend almost £3bn in the one day.

Shoppers resisted the lure of buying online to hit the pavement. Many stores reported their busiest ever day. In London's West End the numbers were up by a third, despite a Tube strike.

Nonetheless, market analyst Experian says online spending is also expected to be the "biggest and busiest ever", accounting for almost £500m on Boxing Day.

Price comparison website said shoppers were planning to spend a total of £2.9bn in the Boxing Day sales, according to a survey that it had conducted.

Tube strike

Start Quote

There is only so much cost-cutting and new efficiency retailers can achieve”

End Quote Helen Dickinson Director general of the British Retail Consortium

London's main West End shopping district, including Oxford Street, were packed, with shoppers.

Footfall by mid-morning was reported to be up by 31% from a year ago, according to retailer association the New West End Company, with foreign buyers - particularly the Chinese - dominating trade.

Tube drivers chose Boxing Day strike to go on strike for the third year in a row - although extra buses are being provided to the West End and the Westfield shopping centres in Stratford and White City.

Meanwhile, the A40 in London was closed both ways at Greenford for planned roadworks.

At Burberry, which began its winter sale before Christmas, staff at the luxury fashion retailer's new flagship store on Regent Street said it was the busiest day they had known, after what had been a quiet run-up to Christmas.

Shoppers on London's Regent Street Despite the Tube strike, London's West End shopping district is packed

Other central London luxury retailers were kept busy, with a long queue at lunchtime outside the Vivienne Westwood boutique.

Queuing around the block

Thousands of people gathered from shortly after midnight at major shopping centres around the country, such as Westfield in London, Bluewater in Kent and Birmingham's Bullring, where Debenhams, Selfridges and Next were offering discounts of up to 50%.

Next was reported by BBC readers to be overwhelmed by demand at some of its branches in the London suburbs. In Kingston-upon-Thames, queues were seen tailing around the block just after the clothing store opened at 06:00 GMT.

In Leeds, Dean Stratton, manager of the White Rose Shopping Centre, told the BBC they were experiencing a very busy Christmas and Boxing Day.

"We've had a couple of records," he said. "Christmas week was our busiest single week ever for footfall and Christmas Eve was the biggest we've had here."

Other shopping centres were also claiming record numbers of visitors, including the St David's centre in Cardiff.

However, Mr Stratton conceded it was too early to say whether the bigger crowds in shops had actually spent more than last year.

The Furniture Village chain - which, as a vendor of big-ticket durable goods, is particularly sensitive to consumer frugality - reported almost a thousand transactions at its 40 stores by mid-afternoon on Boxing Day, putting it on course to beat the 1,200 sales it closed on the same day in 2011.

Business failures

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said Christmas spending in shops this year was "acceptable but not exceptional".

"Christmas hasn't been a boom time for UK retailers, but it hasn't been complete doom and gloom either," said Helen Dickinson, the BRC's new director general.

Shoppers queuing up outside Next in Kingston-upon-Thames; picture taken by BBC viewer Sue Lindenberg Shoppers queued up around the block before dawn to get into Next in Kingston-upon-Thames

She said spending by shoppers was likely to have increased in 2012 only broadly in line with rising prices, and there had been big variations in individual retail performances.

The BRC has said some High Street retailers would "undoubtedly" fail after Christmas.

"Sales were hard-fought and often driven by discounts, so cutting into margins," said Ms Dickinson.

The normal surge in pre-Christmas came late this year, partly due to shoppers holding back for a bargain, she said, and partly because many crammed their purchases into the weekend just before Christmas Eve, which fell on a Monday this year.

This year's pattern of a late pre-Christmas weekend rush to the shops was reflected in footfall data provided by analysts Experian.

The BRC director general said the outlook was not particularly encouraging: "The pressure is coming from adapting to conditions that consistently deliver minimal year-on-year sales growth.

"There is only so much cost-cutting and new efficiency retailers can achieve."

Further rises in utility bills in the New Year, as well as a focus by customers on repaying their debts, meant 2013 was likely to be characterised by "more of the same", she added.

Online 'record-breaker'

Another factor hurting High Street retailers is the general shift to online sales.

Business recovery group Begbies Traynor has warned many shops faced the threat of closure as more customers turned to the internet.

Experian said visits to retail websites were expected to reach 126 million on Boxing Day, an increase of 31% on last year.

Shoppers queue to enter Selfridges in London Selfridges on London's Oxford Street reported its biggest first hour on record, taking £1.5m

James Murray, from Experian, said: "Christmas 2012 is on track to be another record-breaker for online retail, outstripping 2011 on all fronts.

"The current market trends suggest that in the UK, Boxing Day will be the biggest day for online retail, with an estimated 126 million visits to online retail outlets and a massive 17 million hours spent online shopping on this day alone."

Amazon UK said it had seen sales on Christmas Day increase by 263% over the last five years.

This was partly due to the growth in home broadband and the popularity of tablets and smartphones.'s survey found four million people plan to head to the stores, while five million will shop online.

However, the BRC took a more sanguine view: "There are a lot of myths around online retail," said BRC spokesman Richard Dodd,

"Ten per cent of overall retailing over the year comes from online shopping and actually it presents lots of opportunities for the retail sector."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    It seems all the news is dominated by shopping .... how much, how quick, profit margins. Sad really.

    Only hope people can afford what they are buying and not just being sucked into the 'big sale' spiel. Of course 50% off etc is totally bogus, they just invent fake original inflated prices et voila ... chump will line up for molre unnecessary rubbish.

    Wonder if it makes them happy .???

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    #23 obviously no table manners!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Ah yes rampant consumerism, the true spirit of Christmas.

    Happy holidays.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Here's a novel idea.

    Instead of buying stuff because it is cheap, only buy stuff you actually need.

    Buying something you didn't need solely because it was 50% off, is actually a cost to you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I am reading this article sat around the breakfast table with my family, (actually feeling guilty for having my laptop out) and can't believe that people have been queueing overnight?! I wonder how many people know what they are going to buy vs buying something 'because it's cheap'.
    As briblogg says, I don't know that we've really learned much at all in the last 5 years..

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Anyone else sick to the back teeth of the high streets crying their eyes out year in, year out! They are almost as bad as the farmers!

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.


    Is there any good news??????

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    5. Why don't you spend some time with your family then rather than commenting on here!

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    All these people going shopping today, how sad! Makes you wonder what they all did yesterday with the shops being closed, did they go to service stations for their fix?

    Even if £3bn is spent it will only be money that wasn't spent before Xmas, money is only spent once

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Shoppers may well be set to spend £3bn but sadly for these crazy shoppers I very much doubt that it will be £3bn of their own money.

    More likely it will be the same 'virtual' money i.e. credit and store cards, that got us into this financial mess.

    Sad, very sad :-(

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I think 2012 will be remebered for the year people started waking up to the fact we live in a country and a world the is controlled by a few elite wealthy trading families and banking cartels. Of which own all of the mainstream media outlets, human resources, natural resources, food and utilities. Welcome to 2013 a year of more robbing of our wealth and more lies from state run media All the best

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    It's fantastic when you get to a certain age because you run out of things to buy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    How many idiots will pay with Credit Cards making their own personal financial situation worse than it was prior to that vist to the Sales

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    More, paid for by government, figures to try and get the 'feel good' factor going. Sorry Cameron your boat has sailed and the end is nigh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Never ceases to amaze me.If stores can sell all this guff at these so called bargain prices the day after Christmas why don't they do the same before and gain more sales in the run up to Christmas?The public are gullible here,they should leave all the shopping till boxing day and after,we'd be quids in.Stores would soon stop this nonsense and price accordingly before xmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.


    As with majority of 2012, people will be spending less & most are not taken in by deceitful sales pricing.

    Next 3 years, hundreds of thousands are going to lose jobs.

    There will be numerous retailers crash in 2013 & each time one crashes, it has domino sales crash damage on other local retailers, just as Comet crash killed sales for Currys etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    On Boxing day the 6 year old sat puzzled.
    "What's wrong?" asked Mummy
    "Father Christmas doesn't like me." said the child.
    "Father Christmas loves all children." Mummy consoled.
    The child looked up tearfully "So why do all the kids with rich parents get the best presents?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Aye, right enough, if they say so, it must be true.

    Just like all the other 'record takings' fantasies pushed on us to try to make us buy even more, with money we haven't got. Always turns out to be WAY off the mark.

    Much better to wait a couple of days and tell us what actually WAS spent.

    If that is in any way newsworthy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    2.Tronic - ".....I don't think anywhere near that will be spent. How many gadgets and sofas do people with over-extended credit really need?"

    You'll probably be wrong, mores the pity.....'d be amazed how much "stuff" people think they need.....

    ....hence the state of the environment.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    These people are paid to pull numbers out of thin air...


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