Millions of bargain hunters drove record sales this Christmas with John Lewis seeing its busiest ever hour online and Selfridges taking a record £1.5 million within 60 minutes of opening its doors.
Boxing Day saw the number of shoppers surge by a fifth on high streets across the country compared with last year as those with an eye for a bargain queued up from midnight, analysts said.
Consumers also turned to their new tablets and mobile devices, with John Lewis reporting online traffic from tablets rising by a quarter from 28% to 35% between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with the number of orders from tablets doubling since last year.
Andy Street, the retailer’s managing director, said: “It’s been a record Christmas for John Lewis, and that’s been between shops and online.
“Customers are using the two absolutely hand-in-glove. We saw it played out this year the retailers with the best integration between shops and online have done the best.”
He went on: “Going into clearance, we’re expecting that momentum to continue.
“History tends to say that in the tougher economic times, the sales period will be particularly intense, that’s why I’m very optimistic.”
Mr Street added “classic home purchases” fuelled sales online with Egyptian cotton sheets and pillowcases, washing machines and luxury towels among the most popular purchases.
The first hour of its sale, between 5pm and 6pm on Christmas Eve, saw the retailer’s busiest ever hour online, with orders up 70% on last year. Christmas Day then saw online visitor numbers rise by 24% with sales up 40% compared with last year.
And sales in the run-up to Christmas also broke records, up by more than a quarter on last year to £157.8 million the first time a week’s sales have broken the £150 million barrier, the retailer said.
In London's West End, people queued overnight in preparation for the Boxing Day bonanza which was expected to see around 800,000 shoppers spending £50 million, around £62.50 each.
Around 3,000 bargain hunters poured in to Selfridges as its tills rang in £1.5 million in the first hour of trading, its most successful ever first hour of trade, as the flagship Oxford Street store prepared to welcome 250,000 customers today alone, more than six times the number seen on a typical trading day.
Sue West, Selfridges’ director of operations, said handbags and menswear were flying off the shelves.
“Of the people queuing to get inside 60% or 70% were men,” she said.
“It's a great day for men's shopping. It's a tradition and people want to experience it.
“Online sales for us have been great but year on year people still want to experience the Boxing Day sales.”
As shoppers targeted the bargains, a half-price Chloe ‘Paraty’ cross body leather bag for £510 and a Tom Ford jacket reduced from £2,350 to £1,410 were among the first items to be snapped up.
Jace Tyrrell, director of the New West End Company which represents stores in Oxford, Bond and Regent Street, said: “This is one of the strongest trading days of the year in terms of sales.
“Chinese shoppers are the top spenders across all three streets.”
Foreign tourists are expected to drive record sales, with tourist spend traditionally increasing every year, analysts at Global Blue said.
Middle Eastern, Chinese and Nigerian tourists are predicted to be the strongest growth nationalities, attracted by the mixture of flagship stores, designer and luxury brands offering savings of up to 75%.