Retailers reported a welcome boost to festive trading as Boxing Day sales hunters came out in force to snap up bargains.
Shopping centres and high streets up and down Britain were packed as stores slashed prices to lure back the crowds after freezing pre-Christmas temperatures and heavy snow hit sales.
Stores were restricted to six-hour Sunday trading, but some malls opened early to allow people to browse. Many out of town centres reported car parks full to capacity as shops opened their doors.
The impending VAT increase from 17.5% to 20% on January 4 gave consumers a reason to splash out on pricier items such as electronic goods and furniture.
Shoppers in London had to contend with the Tube strike, but crowds still descended on the West End to pick up bargains slashed by up to 70%.
Other people opted to browse for items from the comfort of their homes to avoid the cold conditions – with the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), predicting that Boxing Day spending online could top £300 million for the first time.
When Selfridges in Oxford Street opened its doors for trade at 11am more than 8,000 people were waiting outside, compared to 2,000 last year, a spokeswoman said.
Richard Pinfold, marketing director at the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield, said: “People are voting with their feet and wanting to shop. Our car parks are already full.”
At the Bullring in Birmingham more than 25,000 visitors passed through the doors before 12pm. Tim Walley, general manager, said: “During Bank Holiday Monday we expect to see in the region of 200,000 shoppers visit Bullring as the centre opens its doors at 9am, whilst Next opens at 5am to kickstart their post-Christmas sale.”
At WestQuay shopping centre in Southampton, retailers expected a similar number of Boxing Day shoppers to last year’s 56,000, despite the shorter trading hours. And at Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow, eager shoppers arrived at dawn, with general manager Peter Beagley saying: “People were driving into our car parks as early as 5am aiming to be first to catch the best of the sale items.”