Stores enjoy 'strong' Boxing Day sales

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Media captionShoppers on London's Oxford Street reportedly numbered hundreds of thousands

Boxing Day has been a strong trading day retailers report, after thousands of shoppers snapped up bargains.

Some stores opened for business as early as 06:00 GMT, while queues reportedly started in Birmingham at about 02:00 and in Leeds at 01:30.

Traders in London's West End said they had taken £15m in the first three hours of the sales, and retailers across the UK said they saw large crowds.

London shoppers faced some disruption after Tube drivers went on strike.

The 24-hour walkout was due to a dispute over pay.

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BBC business correspondent Emma Simpson says it has been a difficult year for many UK retailers, some of whom have been discounting since November.

The Christmas period has also seen a surge in the number of people shopping online.

However, retailers have benefited this year from usual trading hours; last year 26 December fell on a Sunday and trading hours were restricted to six hours, hitting footfall.

'Strong start'

Jace Tyrrell, of the New West End Company, which represents traders on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said shoppers had been out in their hundreds of thousands.

Meanwhile, police made nine arrests after a man was fatally stabbed close to Bond Street Tube station, and many shops, at about 13:45. Oxford Street was closed around the scene.

Image caption Selfridges said shoppers had not been put off by transport issues

Selfridges department stores said they had seen their biggest first hour of trading after opening four stores in England at 09:00, with hourly takings expected to peak at £1.3m.

Sue West, Selfridges' director of operations, said: "Despite Tube disruptions we've had a very strong start to our Boxing Day sale, with record sales in the first hour."

A spokeswoman for Westfield shopping centres said the Tube strike, which has disrupted services since midnight, had failed to put shoppers off visiting its London stores.

"Both Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City are seeing huge numbers so far this Boxing Day with well over 125,000 people across both centres so far," the spokeswoman said.

Brent Cross shopping centre in north-west London said 10,000 people had come through the doors within an hour of opening. The retail centre took up to £1,000 a second as shoppers snapped up bargains.

At Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol, some shoppers had queued from 05:00 to hunt bargains.

Centre director Kevin Duffy said in the week leading up to Christmas the centre had seen a 19% increase in shoppers compared with the same period last year. The centre was "very busy" on Boxing Day, he said.

Managers at the Liverpool One shopping centre said they were expecting an estimated 125,000 people to visit its stores. It saw almost 950,000 people visit in the week leading up to Christmas, an increase of 15.7% on last year.

At Birmingham's Bullring retail complex, which has attracted 1.3 million visitors in the past week, queues began to form as early as 02:00. The 160-store centre estimated that 9,000 visitors had hit its shops by 09:00.

Image caption Thousands of shoppers visited Manchester's Trafford Centre

"There is a lot of talk about internet shopping but people still like to come out to shop and feel the goods," said general manager Tim Walley.

Peter Cook, centre director at the White Rose Shopping Centre, in Leeds, said shoppers started to arrive for the Next sale at 01:30, with about 3,000 in the queue when the shop opened at 06:00. Mr Cook said he expected some 68,000 to pass through the doors by the end of the day.

In Scotland and Wales, sales were also strong.

Ryan Manson, general manager of Union Square in Aberdeen, said it had been "unbelievably busy". Braehead Shopping Centre in Glasgow said the number of shoppers was up on last year.

The Buchanan Galleries, also in Glasgow, reported a "great start" to the sales, as did The Centre in Livingston.

'Real surge'

Managers at the St David's Shopping Centre in Cardiff had estimated up to 200,000 shoppers would hit the retail complex on Boxing Day.

Steven Madeley, the centre director, said: "St David's has seen a real surge in Christmas shoppers over the past few weeks - a staggering 1.2 million customers visited the centre during the week of 12 December, which is an increase of 15% compared to the previous year."

Many people are believed to have gone shopping online on Christmas Day itself this year.

Debenhams said it saw a 75% spike in Christmas Day online traffic compared with last year.

John Lewis said it had seen 19% year-on-year increase in the value of online orders since starting its online clearance on Christmas Eve.

The department store group said it had received more than 1.5 million visits to its website on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a 51% increase year-on-year.

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