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 MoneySupermarket.com 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.

MoneySupermarket.com'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
    +11

    Comment number 147.

    The only winners here are the credit companies. Some people must be crazy to queue to get into Next and the likes. It's not as if the stuff they are selling is worth the original price, never mind the cut price.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 146.

    3bn? where from?? this report is retail sales hype and nothing more. This country doesnt HAVE spending money anymore, and if anyone does shop to day its on credit card and the never never. Wake up sheeple, if you havent got the money dont spend it! You think the last year was bad financially? wait until the chancellors thumb screws have finished with 2013 then you'll wish you hadnt gone out today.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 145.

    The mighty sale! A magical time, when the value of goods mysteriously changes.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 144.

    We should all go out and buy loads of stuff......buying stuff will help the economy grow and we will all be much much happier and better of as a result.

    Spending your money on random stuff ensures happiness - go forth Britain, spend what little you have left!!!

  • rate this
    +113

    Comment number 143.

    No thanks, I refuse to be brainwashed by consumerism and spend money on items I do not need just because they are allegedly at a sale price.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 142.

    .

    I really need a new 'i' device

    Baa baa baaaaa

    .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 141.

    always seems to me it's mostly are new intake of citizens that take advantage of the sales, maybe they have suss' t the system, and we are the fool's

  • rate this
    -50

    Comment number 140.

    Happy days are here again. Four tee shirts, two sweaters and a couple of pairs of socks. Courtesy of the wife,she was out standing in queue 6am this morning.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 139.

    Commercialization of religion.

    Boxing Day Sales ! = Buy your Easter Eggs here???

  • rate this
    +72

    Comment number 138.

    I work in retail and simply refuse to work Boxing Day and simply refuse to go to the sales today as well.

    I feel sorry for the shop staff that are forced to work today and had no help from their employers to get them to work as many areas don't have any public transport today

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 137.

    132.Conner Jai Bentley
    NIce idea but it won't soak up the jobs lost. Manufacturing employment wont change, and distribution employment will only rise a little. Slight rise in IT development possibly and more in tech support, but much of it is none UK based. Low skill retail jobs will not be recreated by on line retailing.

    If its Amazon you are buying from.....well you know all that.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 136.

    @ 133.John70

    LOL

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 135.

    " A fool and his money are soon parted " : Thomas Tusser 1557 - as true today as it's always been. Must-have gadgets that cost peanuts to make, designer clothes made in sweat-shops at pennies a piece. All 'bargains' too good to be passed by.... Suckers.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 134.

    Boxing Day was traditionally the time when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their superiors.

    Now it is a day when retailers receive money for "knocked down" consumer cr@p.

    That is progress for you. Happy holidays.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 133.

    119.dazleeds1
    I like the DFS sales because I can go to one of them any time of the year.
    Good old DFS!
    ~~~~~
    When does DFS not have a sale?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 132.

    I find that the retail sector has the audacity to say that the pre-Christmas figures have been 'disappointing'. Are we to spend more and get in debt to appease the retail sector? Isn't that how we got into the credit mess that we are in now? Companies need to realise that people are moving to the internet because it is cheaper and far more convenient. The internet would fill up those jobs lost

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 131.

    Their right of course, and if thats how they find enjoyment good luck to them.

    But I can't help wondering just how much is on credit & how many people spending in the sales will be amongst the numbers complaining about power/food/living costs & their difficulty meeting them in the New Year. Or even seeking help from the food banks & debt charities. Looks like the addiction isn't broken yet.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 130.

    The British obsession with shopping is laughable .Most are paying by credit cards, that they are already up to their eyeballs in debt with and will not be able to pay off. Plus most of the items they are 'purchasing' are things they don't actually need. How many shopping days are there until next Christmas?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 129.

    @ 120.Leopold K

    Indicative of every high street no doubt. Not PC but we probably need a World War to trim the population and bring us back to our senses. Alternatively pump the population full of junk food so they die of coronary failure; but we really need to government to cut off life saving health care also......

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 128.

    Good luck to them, though I really cant see the point. I am at home playing with my Xmas presents, you would have to pay me to go and mix with the High St mayhem.

 

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