Bumper Boxing Day sales as shoppers embark on £2.7bn spending spree

Bumper Boxing Day sales as shoppers embark on £2.7bn spending spree

Record spending in the Boxing Day sales delivered a Christmas boost to Britain’s retailers on Thursday, confounding fears of a festive slump.

More than £2.7 billion was spent in stores and at online retailers across the UK, with many shops reporting their busiest Boxing Day to date.

Analysts predict that £2.97 billion is likely to be spent in stores and online on Friday. The combined total would be Britain’s all-time record daily retail spending, beating the previous figure of £2.8 billion, which spending data from the British Retail Consortium and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) show was reached on Dec 21 and Dec 27 last year.

Thursday’s figures will cheer the retail sector and be viewed as further evidence that the economy is improving.

Jason Gordon, a consumer business specialist at Deloitte, said: “There is certainly a rebound in consumer confidence as the economy picks up which is definitely good news.”

A total of £2.22 billion was projected to have been spent in stores on Thursday, up 5.7 per cent on last year, according to the CRR. Online shoppers spent £540 million — a new daily record — on Boxing Day, up 15 per cent on last year, IMRG, the internet retailers’ association, said.

Total spending on Friday could be even higher, with shops expected to take £2.57 billion – up more than seven per cent on last year’s £2.4 billion on December 27 – and £400 million more expected to be spent online on Friday.

Ten million people flocked to the shops on Thursday after poor weather in the run-up to Christmas. Shopper numbers fell by between 1 per cent and 5.7 per cent during pre-Christmas storms. The total number of shoppers in stores on Thursday was 1.5 per cent higher than last year’s 9.8 million.

Although the number of high street shoppers fell compared with last year, retail parks enjoyed a 12 per cent increase, while 11 per cent more people chose to look for their post-Christmas bargains in shopping centres, sheltered from any adverse weather.

Howard Archer, the chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “Consumers are likely to be especially keen to take advantage of the genuine, major bargains in the sales to acquire items that they are otherwise struggling to afford or are reluctant to make at the moment.”

He added: “However, we suspect that given still squeezed purchasing power, many people will be likely to be careful in buying – or reluctant to buy – items that they don’t really want or need in the sales. If this is the case, interest in the sales could fall away pretty quickly once the best of the bargains have gone.”

Selfridges, which has stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham, took nearly £2 million in its first hour of trading on Thursday, an increase of more than 15 per cent on last year.

Internet shoppers spent an average of 40 minutes online between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, while John Lewis said 50 per cent of its traffic came from mobile devices.

Harrods also began its winter sale on Thursday and offered mugs of hot chocolate, smoked salmon canapés and blankets to people in the queue, which was serenaded by a string quartet and a performance by a street magician.

More than 1.4 million shoppers were expected to have spent a total of more than £50 million in London’s West End alone on Thursday.

At Cabot Circus in Bristol, shoppers began queuing at 6am on Thursday for the chance to grab a bargain. At St David’s shopping centre in Cardiff, retailers were expecting 150,000 visitors, with sales tipped to reach £2 million. Bluewater in Kent predicted that more than 800,000 people would come through its doors between Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.

Darren Pearce, a director at the Meadowhall shopping centre in Sheffield, said staff started work at 3am to prepare for “our busiest Boxing Day to date”.

Social media recorded sporadic reports of fights between shoppers as bargain-hunters scrambled for sales items.

The John Lewis clearance began online at 5pm on Christmas Eve. Within the first hour, sales were up 13 per cent on last year. Some 56 per cent of all traffic came from mobile devices.

Sue West, from Selfridges, said the ITV drama Mr Selfridge has done “wonders for the brand”. “We’ve seen a lot of new clients, a lot of new customers come in, ever since the series went live.”

Liberty also reported better than expected Christmas trading after a Channel 4 documentary about the store. Kate Brindley, a spokesman, said: “Liberty has seen a really remarkable Christmas trading period so far. Footfall has been up between 45 and 60 per cent.

“Sales are up 17 per cent on last year.”

Tom Nathan, the general manager of Brent Cross shopping centre in north London, said people came out the day after Christmas to face the madness of the sales “because it’s the thrill of a bargain”.

The South West, the North and Yorkshire saw the biggest increase in numbers visiting shopping centres, rising by 30 per cent year on year according to the analysts Springboard.

In Scotland, shoppers were expected to have spent a total of around £232 million across the country, with £187 million being spent in stores.

Many shops opened their doors at 6am to cope with the demand, with prices discounted in some by up to 75 per cent.

However, analysts pointed out that, despite the record spending, the discounts offered mean that some retailers may not necessarily consider the sales an unmitigated success. Retail websites were the biggest winners on Thursday. By the end of December, it is estimated there will have been three billion visits in the UK, the first time that figure will have been reached in a single month.

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian, an information services company, said habits were changing, with more people spending on Christmas Day. “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,” he said.


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