Retailers look for post-Christmas boost as sales begin

Crowds queued to get into the shops before dawn on Boxing Day

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The traditional post-Christmas sales are expected to provide a boost to High Street retailers, as shoppers look for increasingly competitive discounts.

Many large department stores and chains opened early on Boxing Day, while a number of online sales began on Christmas Eve.

John Lewis said internet orders on Christmas Eve were up 13% on 2012 and Christmas Day sales up 19%.

Analysts Experian said online sales were becoming more important each year.

Experian said actual "footfall" - people visiting High Street shops - was down 7.6% in the week leading up to Christmas, in part due to the increasing popularity of online shopping.

It estimated UK consumers would spend 45 million hours on retail websites on Christmas Day.

It added that the earlier start to the sales this year, with heavier discounting, contributed to the drop in footfall, along with bad weather disrupting travel.

Jane Hawksworth from the group said: "Given the current level of discounting by the retailers to attract shoppers pre-Christmas and the increased activity online, it will be interesting to see how this affects the January sale period."

However, Boxing Day brought actual crowds to shopping hubs across the country.

A queue of people outside a Sale sign in London Shoppers brave the early morning cold in London

In London's Oxford Street, some had queued outside their favourite retailers since the early hours of the morning in their eagerness to grab the best bargain.

Speaking to the BBC's Today programme on Radio 4, some people said they had been in a queue outside the flagship Topshop branch since 06:00.

'Perfect storm'

One woman said she was looking to buy coats, another said her spending would depend on "how good the deal was".

The period after Christmas is vital for retailers, who clear their stock ahead of a new season.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, an analyst which also measures footfall, said that the post-Christmas sales would be crucial for retailers as the pre-Christmas period had been disappointing.

Black Friday

She told the BBC: "Everything culminated into a perfect storm, all of our shopping locations struggled to meet last year's performance.

"We were hit with a double whammy of wind and rain."

Crowds in Selfridges, London Crowds formed in some department stores from the early morning

Ms Wehrle added that UK shops adopting the US tradition of Black Friday, where large discounts are offered on products the Friday after the traditional Thanksgiving public holiday, also dented sales the week before Christmas.

"Black Friday becoming something in the UK impacted on sales," she said. "It also coincided with payday for many, so there was a big push for retailers to get some sales. Retailers did a lot of cut-price offers and events."

She said that shoppers are also "increasingly savvy" about when they decided to seek a bargain. "They hold out now," she said.

Earlier in December the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said retail sales had risen during November and cold weather had boosted sales of warm clothing.

Sales rose by 0.3% in November from the month before and were up 2% from a year earlier.

Online sales hit a record, the ONS said, reaching 11.9% of total sales when spending on fuel was excluded.

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