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Boxing Day sales begin online two days early on Christmas Eve

Hundreds of millions of hits are expected on websites between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day

The days of shoppers queuing outside stores on Boxing may soon end, as scores of UK retailers begin their Boxing Day sales online at noon on Christmas Eve.

Overall, 20 per cent of Christmas gift shopping is now done on the internet rather than on the highstreet.

On Christmas Eve, shopping websites are set to experience 22 per cent more hits than last year, with the figure predicted to reach 105 million.

It is expected that retail sites will get 117 million visits on Christmas Day, a 9 per cent rise from last year. This figure is expected to hit 118 million on Boxing Day.

The time Britons spend online will reach 45 million hours in the three days from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, according to retail forecasters.

Opting for an economical approach to gift-giving, half of shoppers will buy their Christmas presents for friends and family in the early sales, according to research by a credit card company.

UK customers are expected to spend an estimated £228 million via six million transactions on Christmas Day alone.

The figures suggest shifting shopping habits, as usually more than 30 per cent of annual sales and profits are made by retailers in the run up to Christmas, a figure that City analysts say was not achieved this year.

In a sales domino effect, retailers including Argos, Boots, Debenhams Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and John Lewis, will launch their end of year sales online on Christmas Eve.

Urban Outfitters had released its sale products by10am, while Both Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser will launch online sales at noon on Christmas Eve. Catalogue store Argos will begin its sale at midnight.

Reductions from John Lewis will be released at 5pm, while its physical stores will not open until Friday.

Amazon is predicting its busiest Christmas Day ever having seen sales on December 25 rise five-fold over the past five years.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountancy firm KPMG, told the Daily Mail: "This year the sales will start earlier than ever, with retailers pulling the trigger and launching online campaigns so shoppers can browse the sales over their turkey and pick up a bargain."

James Murray, digital insight manager for Experian Marketing Services said: “Shopping habits are changing, with Christmas Day becoming a significant shopping day during the period.

“As a result, we anticipate a more sustained shopping pattern during this period, moving away from the traditional peaks and troughs usually evident during holiday season.”