Shoppers favour online orders to cash in on Boxing Day sales

Bargain-hunters favoured online orders over the high street as they looked to cash in on discounts in the traditional Boxing Day sales.

Footfall in high streets and shopping centres across the country were said to be lower than expected, according to monitoring service Springboard, although some centres saw shoppers queuing ahead of stores opening from as early as 6am.

The group said footfall was down 4% on the hours until noon compared with last year, while they predicted a rise of more than 6.2% in online sales on Boxing Day last year.

Numbers flocking to the high street were said to be down 4.7% over the same period and 4.3% lower at shopping centres, while retail parks saw a drop of 2.1%, Springboard said.

Boxing Day sales
Boxing Day sales

Retailers were boosted by those who got in early and ordered goods online on Christmas Day, with sales said to be up by 5% in the 24 hours since midnight on Christmas Eve, according to ecommerce trends experts PCA Predict.

Currys PC World said more than a quarter of a million customers logged on in one hour on Tuesday morning, with 63% using phones to place orders.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: "We did anticipate a drop in footfall on Boxing Day this year, but the scale of the drop is greater than expected.

"Given that last year footfall rose up to 12pm, but dropped over the 24-hour period as a whole, we are now expecting footfall to decline by more than 4% compared with last year over the day as a whole."

Consumer appetite for the post-Christmas sales period fell away last year after an extended period of discounting that began well before November's Black Friday.

VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research also predicted the Boxing Day sales will attract more than a third of the UK's population, expecting them to spend a record £4.3 billion - a 12% rise on 2016.

Barclaycard's poll found months of "feeling the squeeze" this year is resulting in many consumers looking forward to the sales to ease their budgets.

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Thousands flocked to Oxford Street in central London on Tuesday morning to grab a bargain, with shoppers clutching large numbers of bags from stores like Next and Selfridges.

Queues formed outside the department store from around 2.30am as people waited to get items with up to 50% off.

Security guards kept watch and maintained barriers as bargain hunters got in line for high-end brands such as Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo and Burberry.

After three hours of trading from 9am, Selfridges said it had registered £4 million in sales at its London, Birmingham and Manchester stores and online, and was expecting a record year.

The first item sold was an Alexander McQueen bag for £695, down from £1,390, it said.

The New West End Company, which represents 600 businesses on London's Oxford, Bond and Regent streets, predicted takings of £52 million on Boxing Day.

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, said: "Today, spending across the West End is expected to reach £52 million, rising to a total figure of almost £200 million by the end of the Boxing Day week.

"The Boxing Day sales have become a tradition for domestic customers but we also predict a high number of international visitors will take advantage of currency fluctuations and low-cost flights to come to the West End, spending £62 million across the district this week."

Harrods butlers serve drinks to shoppers as they queue outside the store in Knightsbridge, London ahead of the launch of its winter sale (Matt Alexander/PA)
Harrods butlers serve drinks to shoppers as they queue outside the store in Knightsbridge, London ahead of the launch of its winter sale (Matt Alexander/PA)

Amanda and Brianna Hartman, sisters from New York, ventured into Harrods in Knightsbridge to find gifts for their parents.

Amanda said: "We came out for the sales - it's not too bad once you get up to the first floor. This is our first store, we are heading to Oxford Street next."

Customers queued outside in cold conditions to get access to the perfumes section of the famous department store as others scoured the designer stands looking for discounts.

Steven Madeley, general manager of the St David's shopping centre in Cardiff, said: "Boxing Day, and the days following it, continue to be very popular and there's always a real festive buzz across the centre.

"The mall is packed with tens of thousands of shoppers treating themselves and enjoying a festive day out."

We are urging shoppers buying a new fridge or freezer in the #BoxingDay and #January sales to check with retailers whether the backing is fire resistant before making purchases

-- London Fire Brigade (@LondonFire) December 26, 2017

Meanwhile, London Fire Brigade warned those shopping online for fridges and freezers to ensure they have fire resistant backings.

Assistant commissioner for fire safety Dan Daly said: "Not covering a fridge back in fully fire retardant material is like wedging a fire door open - it's an unnecessary risk as there is around one fire a day in London which involves white goods.

"Buying online means it's even harder to see whether a fridge is properly covered so please check before you click."

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