Customers queued across the country to snap up the 250,000 CDs and cassettes available. Record stores were hoping to receive the bulk of their initial order of 1.25 million copies tomorrow, with reinforcements coming later in the week.
Yesterday's sales made certain the hastily produced single, first performed at the Princess's funeral a week ago, would be a chart-topper just a day after its release. And, with record store managers describing it as the fastest-selling single of all time, it could even be the Christmas number one, they predicted.
The speed with which the singles left the shelves astonished record store staff nationwide. Tower Records, central London, opened its doors at midnight to sell 1,000 copies in an hour, and had sold its initial quota of 4,000 by midday.
At the Virgin Megastore in central London, the shop's quota of 3,000 CD singles had also gone by midday, a situation that was reflected at Virgin and Our Price stores across the country.