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Boxing Day Sales: Record-Breaking Surge

(c) Sky News 2012

Boxing Day sales records have been smashed after shoppers sent tills into meltdown across Britain.

Bargain-hunters queued overnight in preparation for stores opening this morning, with thousands pouring through the doors from as early as 6am.

Forecasters said more than £50m would have been taken on London West End's famous shopping destinations of Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street at closing time.

Footfall was up 31.3% on Boxing Day last year in the West End, with sales fuelled by tourists eager to spend. The UK average footfall was up by 21.6%, the retailers' body said.

On Oxford Street, flagship store Selfridges reported its most successful first hour of trade ever, with £1.5 million rattling through the tills.

Sue West, Selfridges director of operations, said handbags and menswear were among the items flying off the shelves.

"Online sales have been great, but year-on-year people still want to experience the Boxing Day sales," she said.

Leading department store John Lewis announced a record start to its online sale which began on Christmas Eve with hourly orders up 70% on last year.

In its final pre-Christmas trading period John Lewis saw sales of £157.8m, up 26.5% on the same period last year and breaking the £150m barrier for the first time.

Andy Street, managing director of John Lewis, said: "To be announcing another record-breaking pre-Christmas week along with such a fantastic start to our online clearance is marvellous news."

At Birmingham's Bullring Shopping Centre, thousands were ready and waiting from 12.20am for the off with 350,000 passing through within the next 24 hours.

Manchester's Trafford Centre enjoyed its biggest Boxing Day sale in its history with police drafted in to help manage the crowds - 20,000 were at the out-of-town location by 8am.

The centre's Gordon McKinnon said: "Many retailers have kept stock levels much tighter this year, so the sales will not be stretching on into January."

Kent's Bluewater shopping centre saw about 120,000 visitors pass through its doors, with queues forming at 1am.

The British Retail Consortium had described high-street spending as "acceptable but not exceptional" this festive period, but the Boxing Day sales would add gloss to the figures.

Retailers slashed prices and began early-morning trading in a bid to entice shoppers and compete with online rivals offering weighty discounts.

A strike by London tube drivers about bank holiday pay does not seem to have had too much impact on the sales.

Extra buses were laid on for those travelling to the West End, as well as the Westfield shopping centres in Stratford, east London, and White City, west London, Transport for London said.

Jason Tyrrell from the New West End Company told Sky News: "We were prepared for this strike and had coaches for staff. The shoppers are out in force, but I hope both sides get round the table and sort it out."

Online retailers tried to stay one step ahead of the competition by offering heavy discounts on Christmas Day with Amazon's UK website seeing a 263% rise in sales over the last five years.

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