Retailers pin their hopes on Boxing Day bonanza as Christmas proves a flop

Internet shopping and price cuts have made life tough on the high street, Abigail Townsend writes. But that means consumers are quids in. Beatrice Aidin lists 30 of the best sales around
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The high street will witness its busiest Boxing Day in history as shops strive to make up for dismal trading over Christmas with huge discounts in the sales.

The high street will witness its busiest Boxing Day in history as shops strive to make up for dismal trading over Christmas with huge discounts in the sales.

About 40 per cent of large retailers are getting their January sales under way today, including Marks & Spencer and Debenhams. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said around 20 per cent more shops will be open than a year ago, making for a record number of bargain-hunters.

As well as M&S, which is thought to have had a very bad Christmas, and Debenhams, others starting sales today include Argos, Dixons and Carphone Warehouse.

At the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, only a handful of stores traded last Boxing Day, but this year about half of the 330 shops will open. Other malls around the country mirror this trend, including Merry Hill in the West Midlands, where Carla Whelan, marketing manager, said: "People were cross when we didn't open in 2003. They were banging on the doors."

Other stores are waiting one day - but not a full day. Clothing chain Next will open many of its branches in England and Wales at 5am for what is traditionally one of the most popular sales of the season. All told, the BRC predicts bargain-hunters will spend more than £5bn in the first week of the post-Christmas sales.

Such a spree, if it comes, will be welcome after a December which started sluggishly and rallied only at the last possible moment with a Christmas Eve which some experts said was the year's biggest shopping day. But the last-minute surge may not be enough to save the crucial festive shopping season. "There was a lot of money spent last week," said Nick Bubb, retail analyst at City broker Evolution Securities, "and if retailers have planned for that, it could make a difference. But I don't think the week will have made too much difference overall."

John Lewis said that while it had seen bumper trading in the three days before Christmas, it would not be enough to match last year's figures for the whole festive period.

Interest-rate rises, the surging popularity of the internet and the consumer's growing eye for a bargain have all contributed to the tough festive trading. One City analyst, Richard Ratner at broker Seymour Pierce, dubbed it "the most difficult Christmas" for 25 years. And although the sales will give stores a chance to clear stock, heavy discounting will eat into profits.

M&S is offering up to 50 per cent off a host of goods at its 54 stores. The size of the discounts, and its two unprecedented "flash" one-day sales before Christmas, are seen by many in the City as evidence that trading has been poor.

Other shops, such as John Lewis and some branches of M&S, start sales tomorrow. But that is not expected to deter today's army of shoppers. As the BRC spokesman said: "Shopping is our number one leisure activity on bank holidays and Sundays."

Department stores

1 Debenhams

Starts: Today, 11am-5pm; tomorrow, all stores open at 7am

Best deals: J by Jasper Conran women's suit reduced from £170 to £100. Homewear bargains include Dyson DC04 vacuum cleaners from £180 to £130 - or £80 early today. Deals also at www.debenhams.com

Inquiries: 08445 616161

2 Harrods

Starts: 3 January, 9am-9pm

Best deals: Persian carpets will be reduced by 75 per cent from £11,999 to £2,999. Women's YSL, Gucci, Burberry and Ballantyne reduced by up to 75 per cent; men's suits - Hugo Boss and Paul Smith - reduced by 30 per cent. Food bargains too.

Inquiries: 0870-732 1234

3 Selfridges

Starts: Today, 11.30am London and Manchester Trafford; 11am Manchester Exchange Square and Birmingham

Best deals: 50 per cent off designer clothes including Burberry and Stella McCartney. Beauty brands Philosophy, Temple Spa and SK-II at 50 per cent off. Samsonite and Mulberry luggage from 30 per cent off.

Inquiries: 0870-837 7377

4 Harvey Nichols

Starts: Today, 10am Edinburgh; tomorrow, 9am Manchester, 10am London, Leeds, Birmingham

Best deals: Designer clothes reduced by 50 per cent, e.g. a Gucci velvet tuxedo jacket reduced from £1,160 to £580.

Inquiries: 020-7235 5000

5 Liberty

210-220 Regent Street, London W1B 5AH

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Special order Amalfi range sofas reduced by 50 per cent from £2,800 to £1,400. Some Liberty print items reduced; Missoni for women and Lanvin half price.

Inquiries: 020-7734 1234

6 Fenwick

Starts: Tomorrow (all stores), 10am Bond Street; other stores vary

Best deals: Paul & Joe bags reduced by 50 per cent and Missoni, Pucci and Cacharel scarves down by 30 per cent.

Inquiries: 020-7629 9161

7 John Lewis

Starts: Tomorrow all stores, 9.30am Oxford Street; other stores vary

Best deals: Ex-display and end-of-range appliances, sofas, cancelled orders. Nursery accessories reduced by 50 per cent and prams by a third. www.johnlewis.com.

Inquiries: 08456 049049

8 House of Fraser

Starts: Today, 11.30am Scotland, Birmingham, Meadowhall, Lakeside, Bluewater, Metro Centre and London Oxford Street; tomorrow, 9am elsewhere

Best deals: Up to 50 per cent off many lines including Moschino Cheap & Chic, Marc Jacobs leather bags - soft tote reduced from £735 to £367.50 - and 50 per cent off menswear including Hackett and Seven Jeans.

Inquiries: 0870-160 7270

9 Marks & Spencer

Starts: Today, 11am Marble Arch, other stores vary

Best deals: Homeware, clothing and food with 20 to 50 per cent reductions; online the sale started yesterday - www.marksandspencer.com

Inquiries: 0845-302 1234

High-street clothes

10 Top Shop

Starts: Today, 9am

Best deals: Up to 50 per cent off, depending on what's left after Christmas. Arrive early and prepare to do battle.

Inquiries: 0800-731 8284

11 Zara

Starts: Today in selected stores, 10am; tomorrow elsewhere

Best deals: Most things.

Inquiries: 020-7851 4300

12 Reiss

Starts: Today in selected stores, times vary; tomorrow, 10am elsewhere

Best deals: Men's chunky knits reduced by 40 per cent, such as the Dylan handknit from £110 to £66. Women's items down 50 per cent include the sexy black Lara dress reduced to £47.50.

Inquiries: 020-7225 4900

13 Thomas Pink

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am (today in Selfridges)

Best deals: Men's shirts 30 per cent off from £79 to £55. Women's shirts have up to 40 per cent off, from £65 to £39.

Inquiries: 020-7498 3882

14 Paul Smith

Starts: 30 December, 10.30am

Best deals: Men's suits down from £410 to £290, most items 30 per cent off, or 50 per cent with mailed sale card.

Inquiries: 020-7379 7133

Shoes

15 Emma Hope

Starts: 8 January, 10am

Best deals: Beautiful shoes with exquisite details, such as velvet embroidered mules reduced from £299 to £179.

Inquiries: 020-7259 9566

16 Jimmy Choo

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Discounts of 30 per cent or more. Boo sandals which were £495 reduced to £346.50.

Inquiries: 020-7493 5858

17 Manolo Blahnik

49-51 Old Church Street, London SW3 5BS

Starts: 7 January, 10am

Best deals: Reductions start at 45 per cent off, with further mark-downs on previous seasons' collections.

Inquiries: 020-7352 8622

18 Patrick Cox

129 Sloane Street, London SW1 9AT

Starts: 28 December, 10am

Best deals: Half-price bargains include satin pleated courts, £200 to £100.

Inquiries: 020-7730 8886

Designer

19 Alberta Ferretti

205-206 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9QX

Starts: 29 December, 10am

Best deals: 30 per cent off at the start of the sale with clothes reduced by 50 per cent later. But snap up that wrap-around chiffon dress (£959 to £671) quickly.

Inquiries: 020-7235 2349

20 The Cross

141 Portland Road, London, W11 4LR

Starts: 4 January, 12pm

Best deals: Up to 70 per cent off labels such as Missoni and Gharani Strok; key sale items include Ann Louise Roswald coats from £530 to £265.

Inquiries: 020-7727 6760

21 Browns

23-27 South Molton Street, London W1K 5RD

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Up to 40 per cent off Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs, Dries van Noten, Chloé, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Marni at this legendary fashion emporium.

Inquiries: 020-7514 0000

22 Matches

60-64 Ledbury Road London W11 and Matches 85 (the younger store), 85 Ledbury Road, London W11

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Men's and women's designer clothes reduced by 30 per cent. Pick up a Bottega Veneta Bag reduced from £730 to £365 or a men's Dolce & Gabbana leather jacket down from £1,075 to £538.

Inquiries: 020-7221 0255

Children

23 Mothercare

Starts: Today, 9am

Best deals: Prices up to 60 per cent off including the Hampshire cot from £230 down to £170. Lots of kids' clothes down by 50 per cent.

Inquiries: 01923 241000

24 Disney Store

Starts: Today, 10am Oxford Street; others vary

Best deals: Up to 50 per cent off selected items.

Inquiries: www.disneystore.co.uk

Electrical

25 Carphone Warehouse

Starts: Today, 10am selected branches, but check with local store

Best deals: Trade in your old phone for a pay-as-you-go-mobile for £9.95 with Virgin. Plus take out a new contract and your phone comes for free.

Inquiries: 0800 925925

26 PC World, Dixons, Currys and The Link

Starts: Today, 10am (most stores) Best deals: Savings of up to 50 per cent on computers, printers, household and electrical items plus discounts on mobile phones at The Link.

Inquiries: PC World 0870-242 0444, Currys 0870-550 0049, Dixons 0845-850 0545, The Link 0500 222666

Homes

27 Habitat

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am Tottenham Court Road, London; local stores vary

Best deals: Up to 50 per cent off a selection of items including rugs from £100 to £50, an Aria 3-seater sofa from £1,099 reduced to £550.

Inquiries: 0845-601 0740

28 Heals

196 Tottenham Court Road W1T 7LQ

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Brown leather Isis sofa reduced from £1,495 to £895. Nimbus metal bed reduced from £595 to £395.

Inquiries: 020-7636 1666

29 Purves & Purves

220-224 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 6QE

Starts: Tomorrow, 10am

Best deals: Tom Vac Chair in Clear by Vitra from £150 to £95 and the Lazy Chair by B&B Italia, £995 from £1,667.

Inquiries: 020-7580 8223

Cosmetics

30 Boots

Starts: Today, 10am larger stores. For other stores' times, check locally

Best deals: Sale on Christmas lines with 50 per cent reductions.

Inquiries: 08450 708090

Sales already on: FCUK, Russell & Bromley, Gap, Karen Millen, DKNY, Laura Ashley

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