The Harrods sale opened yesterday to the sound of pipers serenading the French film star Gerard Depardieu and of tills that were to ring up about pounds 7m - beating the store's target for the first day of its winter sale.
Harrods expect shoppers to spend a further pounds 18m during the next three days of the sale, peaking on Saturday with a projected pounds 12m.
More than 200,000 people are thought to have passed through the doors of the famous London department store between 9am and 8pm today. But while some complained about the absence of real bargains, their actions belied their words as they parted with a quarter of a million pounds in the first half-hour. By noon, the tills were taking pounds 16,000 per minute and the store said turnover was up 8 per cent on last year's sales.
The china and glass department did particularly well, with more than pounds 100,000 of china sold by lunchtime and the linen department was also said to have had a good day.
Nearly 2,000 people were queuing outside by 9am but the first to arrive had been Pip Watkins, 20, and Richard Lloyd, 22, two Cardiff University students who arrived at midnight to win a pounds 5 bet. After nine hours of playing snap and reading they suddenly found themselves the centre of attention as they were served a champagne breakfast outside the store.
Inside, the selling was steady, with the only stampedes occurring as journalists tried to follow Depardieu, who opened the sale, down to the wine department where Harrods is exclusively selling the actor's own Chateau de Tigne Anjou Blanc (pounds 7.95).
The famous store banished such sale "gimmicks" as a television for pounds 10 or a fur coat for pounds 50 several years ago. "It was more of a pain than anything else," a Harrods spokesman said. "We found it was counter-productive because 50 people would converge on the same item and we decided it was better to give more people the chance of getting the same products."
But Betheney Bernard, from Buckinghamshire, was disappointed at the lack of traditional bargains. "To be honest," she said, "they are only offering 30 to 40 per cent off. Other stores are offering 50 per cent."
Erica Fiber of Hendon, who has attended the first day of the sales for the past 10 years, was content with her bargain - a pounds 160 Yarell jacket that had originally cost pounds 320: "You can get cheaper stuff here than you do in out-of-town shops."