Bargain Hunters Flock To Boxing Day Sales

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Bargain hunters flock to the high streets in their thousands as shops open for the Boxing Day sales.

Keen shoppers started queuing before dawn to ensure they were first in line when the shops opened.

Harrods provided mugs of hot chocolate, smoked salmon canapes and blankets to keep people warm in the queue, while other stores provided entertainment for the eagerly-awaiting shoppers.

Hundreds of people crowded outside Selfridges on London's Oxford Street, with queues snaking around the block. 

There were separate queues for different brands and a large security presence to help manage the crowd before the doors opened at 9am.

A spokeswoman for Selfridges said 3,500 were lined up outside the store, with the first people arriving before midnight last night. 

Sue West, retail director at Selfridges, said Boxing Day was a "a very big day" as the store only had two sales per year. 

Department store Liberty offered designer goods at a fraction of their usual price, while both Next (Other OTC: NXGPF - news) and Marks & Spencer (Other OTC: MAKSF - news) boasted discounts of up to 50% on sale items.

Early figures show those venturing out for the sales was up 8 percent on last year. 

In the hours leading up to 10.00am, footfall to UK high streets increased by 3.4 per cent year on year, to retail parks by 5.7 per cent and shopping centres by 22 per cent, according to retail data experts Springboard.

However, online sales started early this year, on Christmas Eve, and were predicted to steal away some of the crowds. 

House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols, Debenhams (Other OTC: DBHSY - news) and John Lewis were among those to launch their sales ahead of Boxing Day.

A survey by Barclaycard found that almost a third (31%) of shoppers had planned to scour the web for bargains on Christmas Day, but only 27% are expected to make the trip to the stores on Boxing Day.

Consumer expert Jasmine Birtles, from Moneymagpie.com, said it's an act of "desperation" that large brands are clamouring for Boxing Day sales.

She said: "I think it's a mark of desperation that even the big names are going, 'look, we're on sale now, come and spend your money with us before you spend it anywhere else'.

"Because I think the shops are very aware that people have limited budgets now and they want a piece of that budget before anyone else does." 

Some 117 million visits to retail websites were estimated to have been made on Wednesday in the UK, with Boxing Day's figure set to rise to over 118 million.

Experian predicts that between December 24 and 26, some 45 million hours would be spent shopping online.

By the end of December, it is estimated there will have been three billion visits to retail websites in the UK, which will set a new single-month record.

Today's online sales alone are expected to bring in around £472.5 million.

Robert Goodman, Bluewater's general manager, said the shopping centre had prepared for a "bumper Boxing Day" this year.

"With the strongest retail offer to date, and with 50 new brands launching with us this year, we are expecting visitor numbers to be on a par with Boxing Day last year.

"This will begin what is likely to be our busiest six days of the year."

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian (Other OTC: EXPGF - news) , said: "Christmas 2013 has consistently outperformed 2012 on virtually every single shopping day this December, with online visits from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day up from last year, a record-breaking Cyber Monday and the emergence of the even busier Middle Cyber Monday.

"Shopping habits are changing, with Christmas Day becoming a significant shopping day during the period.

"As a result, we anticipate a more sustained shopping pattern during this period, moving away from the traditional peaks and troughs usually evident during holiday season."

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