A Boxing Day shopping frenzy is under way across the UK, with thousands of Britons camping out or queuing from Christmas night to find a massive bargain.
Shoppers spent hours waiting for shops to open as early as 6am and then began raiding shelves and racks inside crowded stores where prices slashed by as much as 70 per cent.
Shoppers are expected to spend a record-breaking £4.75billion on Boxing Day sales, giving the UK’s battered high streets a much-needed boost amid a sharp rise in online sales.
Almost 28million people are expected to buy something in stores or online after splashing out on Christmas gifts for loved ones – and possibly leaving their bank accounts bare.
But by midday it appeared the average footfall from morning shopping was down 4.2 per cent from last year.
Men are tipped to outspend women in the hunt for a bargain, and adults will spend an average of £188, a study suggests.
In Edinburgh, hundreds of people queued outside Next in Princes Street for its annual Boxing Day extravaganza before the lights were even on.
The shop was packed when it opened at 6am as bargain hunters took advantage of discounts of 50 per cent or more.
Some walked out with three or more bags filled with clothing or homewares and either headed home or went on to the next store.
In Nottingham, a group of women were the first to queue outside a Next shop inside the Intu Victoria Centre, showing up at 12.30am.
By the time the store opened, more than 400 people were in the queue, NottinghamshireLive reported.
Amina Aziz, 24, who was the first in the queue with family members, said: “We wanted to be the first last year as well and came at 2.30am then.
“We bring biscuits and we do not drink a lot because there are no toilets. We are all family so it is good company.”
There were similar scenes in cities including London, Manchester, Birmingham and Derby, where people began queuing outside shops at Intu Derby around midnight.
Shortly after a Next store opened at 6am, there were about 750 customers inside, said assistant store manager Kerry Pealing.
She told DerbyshireLive: “It’s really, really busy today.
“We had to control people coming into and out of the store this morning.
“At half six we had around 750 people so we had to do 10 in and 10 out.”
Customer Jade Allison said it was a “nightmare” because it was so busy.
She added: “It’s very cheap but it’s annoying because it’s a nightmare in there. People push past you and ram straight though.”
By 8am, there were huge crowds waiting to enter Selfridges at Manchester’s Trafford Centre.
In London, thousands headed to Oxford Street – Europe’s busiest shopping street – hours before shops opened to be among the first to bag a deal.
By 2am, queues had already formed outside some stores.
Half a million shoppers were expected in central London.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive at New West End Company, representing businesses in Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: “Over half a million visitors expected in the West End today with £50m expected to go through the tills.
“Up to 70 per cent off as retailers pull out all the stops to clear as much stock as possible before the critical year end and Q1 costs come through.”
At Harrods in Knightsbridge, west London, shoppers queued around the building for the launch of its winter sale, and it took 20 minutes for everyone to get inside once the doors opened.
In Scotland, David Pierotti, general manager at Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow, said: “Attracted by the thrill and discounts available, Scots are continuing to take the sales seriously with early birds queuing outside Next from 3am this morning with Zara also proving to be incredibly popular with our shoppers today.”
Ryan Manson, general manager at Union Square in Aberdeen, said there has been a lot of demand for it cinema and restaurants on Boxing Day, adding: “There’s been several big new film releases recently, including Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman, and Spiderman into the Spider-Verse, which are proving a major draw.”
UK average footfall on Boxing Day this year for the period up to midday was 4.2 per cent lower than for the same hours on Boxing Day last year, retail intelligence experts Springboard said.
This is a slightly smaller drop than the 5.6 per cent in 2017 from 2016, but a greater drop than on Boxing Day in 2016 when footfall declined by 2.8 per cent from 2015.
The retail experts said a decline in footfall on Boxing Day on three consecutive years indicates the lessening in importance of Boxing Day as a trading day.
Springboard said footfall up to midday on Boxing Day is 10 per cent lower than on Saturday December 22, which was the peak trading day before Christmas this year, and 9.4 per cent lower than on Black Friday.
Still, Boxing Day still remains a key shopping day – twice as much money was spent on Boxing Day than Black Friday last year – while the period between Christmas Day and New Year generated £12billion in sales, according to ShopperTrak.
High street retailers had already cut prices after trading on the busiest shopping day of the year, dubbed “Super Saturday”, failed to lure shoppers to stores.
Clothing and accessories are at the top of Boxing Day shopping lists, with 40 per cent of customers looking for everything from coats and shoes to dresses and children’s clothing for half price.
Stores and shopping centres are expected to get a lot busier through the day.
The Westfield shopping centres in London – in Shepherd’s Bush and Stratford – were both expecting 400,000 shoppers on Boxing Day.
Huge crowds are also expected at Cardiff’s St David’s shopping centre (270,000), Birmingham’s Bullring (250,000) and Manchester’s Trafford Centre (190,000).
Mild weather is likely to encourage shoppers to head out, with double-digit temperatures expected in some places.
Others chose to avoid the crowds and take advantage of sales from the comfort of their own home.
Online sales are expected to hit £1.04billion – up 20 per cent on last year.
Some shoppers admitted they would shop online and in stores on Wednesday.
Jimmy New, of VoucherCodes.co.uk, told the Mirror: “Boxing Day continues to be a hugely popular savings day for the high street, with billions being spent on bargains.”
Figures from VoucherCodes.co.uk and Centre for Retail Research reveal 17.8million people will pack shopping centres today while 9.8million will snap up deals from the comfort of their homes.
A study by Barclaycard suggests men will outspend women in the hunt for a bargain.
Research shows that four in 10 adults plan to shop in the sales over the period, anticipating an average spend of £188 each.
Men will be the biggest spenders, with findings showing they expect to shell out 50 per cent more than women at £227 compared with £151.
Three in 10 Britons plan to hit the sales on Boxing Day, the study found.
But more and more consumers were planning to start their sales shopping even earlier, with three in 10 bargain-hunters beginning their spree on Christmas Eve and 17 per cent on Christmas Day.
Of those Christmas Day shoppers, three in 10 said this is because of fear of missing out on a bargain.
John Lewis shoppers didn’t have to wait until Boxing Day, with clearance having already started online at 5pm on Christmas Eve.
Argos started its sale on Christmas Day online, as it did last year.
Debenhams has been running significant sales before Christmas even arrived, with up to 50 per cent off on designer womenswear and beauty and fragrance.
While the high street will get a boost, online will again steal the show, Barclaycard said.
Four in five of those who plan to shop in the sales will do some online, with 69 per cent saying they will make the majority of their purchases online – up from 42 per cent in 2017.
Nearly a third of those who intend to shop online plan to use their smartphone or tablet to make a purchase.
Konrad Kelling, managing director of customer solutions at Barclaycard, said: “Whilst most plan to spend Boxing Day with friends and family, Brits also don’t want to miss out on the best deals to be had.
“Surprisingly, men plan to spend more than women in the sales this year – whether that be staying up late to buy that must-have item or even browsing online during the family festivities.”
He added: “Boxing Day remains the most popular day to shop for bargains over the Christmas period.
“However, this year the majority of consumers plan to shop online from the comfort and convenience of their own home rather than braving the winter weather and crowds on the high street.”
It has been a torrid year for retailers with notable high street names such as Poundworld and Maplin falling into administration, Marks & Spencer and Debenhams announcing plans to shutter stores, while Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory issued profit warnings.
High street retailers have been battling higher costs, low consumer confidence as shoppers rein in spending amid Brexit uncertainty and people increasingly shop online rather than visit bricks-and-mortar stores.
Don Williams, retail partner at KPMG in the UK, said: “Since Black Friday hit UK shores back in 2013, the festive sales period hasn’t quite been the same.
“Indeed, previous KPMG analysis did highlight that the discount bonanza in November cannibalised the traditional Christmas shopping period, bringing sales forward and twisting retailers’ arms to discount for longer.
“With this year’s Black Friday being a bit of a damp squib, many could be forgiven for hoping that would have benefited post-Christmas sales, including Boxing Day.
“But, for the vast majority, that is unlikely. Most will still have their work cut out to persuade shoppers who have notably been clawing back their spend.
“But for those retailers stocking must-have brands, there is still plenty to play for in the final festive push.”
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