Boxing Day sales: bargain hunters out in force across UK

The Christmas shopping marathon has continued in earnest with thousands of Britons queuing from the early hours to get their hands on Boxing Day bargains.

More than 1,000 people were waiting outside Next in Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre ahead of its 6am opening, with some eager shoppers standing sentinel from 12.30am.

Unlike most high street rivals Next does not cut its prices before Christmas and the big crowds outside its branches, including 1,000 at the Silverburn centre in Glasgow and 500 at Highcross Leicester, show Britons think its sale, when its slashes clothing and homewares prices by two-thirds, is still worth getting out of bed for.

Although many high street stores started their sales online at the end of last week, Boxing Day remains one of the biggest shopping days of the year as Britons hit the shops to spend gift cards and money they have received for Christmas.

Shoppers were out in force on Boxing Day against a backdrop of rising prices, with around one in three Britons expected to visit the festive sales, up from 23% last year, according to Barclaycard. The poll found after months of “feeling the squeeze” many consumers were looking forward to the sales to make their budgets go further.

“Last year, Black Friday overshadowed Boxing Day sales as many retailers struggled to maintain consumer interest in what has become a month-long discounting event,” said Paul Lockstone, managing director at Barclaycard. “This year, however, value-seeking consumers appear to be more eager to buy cut-price items across both sales periods as they try to combat rising prices.”

Shopping centre giant Hammerson, which owns the Bullring and London’s Brent Cross, said it was expecting big crowds at its centres but that shoppers were trading up, opting to buy fewer, higher price goods. It predicted that jewellery, cashmere jumpers, retro toys and gadgets would be on people’s shopping lists.

“The shift towards indulgent and higher priced presents in favour of volume gifting means we anticipate consumers to continue to ‘trade up’ on brands and key purchases during the sales,” said Mark Bourgeois, Hammerson managing director UK & Ireland.

Retail experts expect stores in London’s West End to ring up a £52m sales bonanza on Boxing Day as both local shoppers and tourists flock to the high street and luxury stores on Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street. That figure is 4% higher than last year with the New West End Company predicting tills will rake in £190m over the Boxing Day week buoyed by high-spending tourists.

Security guards were deployed to keep the crowd under control outside Selfridges as bargain hunters queued for the discounts on high-end brandssuch as Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo and Burberry.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said international tourists were making a beeline for London due to the weakness in sterling. “The Boxing Day sales have become a tradition for domestic customers but we also predict a high number of international visitors will take advantage of currency fluctuations and low-cost flights to come to the West End,” he said.

Of the predicted £190m spend in the West End this week £62m will come from high-rolling international visitors, who on average spend more than £1,000 per head. The Chinese are among the highest spenders of all with Global Blue, the shopping tax refund company, predicting them to be responsible for a fifth of all non-EU spending in the capital’s main shopping district this week.

In nearby Knightsbridge thousands of shoppers also made their annual pilgrimage to Harrods as the luxury department store slashed the price of designer clothing and handbags by up to 50% in its winter sale. Harrods managing director Michael Ward said the store had had a good Christmas with sales higher than a year ago as shoppers sought out special gifts they could not find on the high street.

“If you have got beautiful products people will seek it out,” said Ward. “If you walk down the high street you will see 20 black dresses and they’ll be the same. If you come to Harrods you will find 20 black dresses and each one will be exquisite in a different way.”

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