Britons braving the Boxing Day sales have been warned to expect heavy rain, sleet and up to four inches of snow, after the Met Office issued severe weather alerts.
The bitter weather is expected to spread east and south across Northern Ireland, England and Wales today, before clearing in the evening.
Plunging temperatures could cause disruption on the roads as shoppers drive to the sales, with a risk of icy conditions in many areas.
“Where snow does occur accumulations of 2cm to 4cm are likely... and in excess of 10cm (4 inches) possible,” a Met Office spokesman said.
The unwelcoming conditions are likely to spur the recent boom in online shopping - with millions continuing to shop from the comfort of their homes even on Christmas Day.
A record £636 million was spent online on Christmas Day, according to data firm Experian and online retailing trade association IMRG. The number of visits made to shopping websites was up 25 per cent on last Christmas Day, to an estimated 142 million. The growth of virtual shopping has been fuelled by heavy discounts in recent weeks, in the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
UK weather warnings
UK weather warnings
1/7 Winter weather
Two seafront walkers dodge an icy wave at Saltcoats Harbour in Saltcoats, Scotland on December 27, 2013. A yellow 'be aware' warning has been issued for many parts of Scotland as the country is affected by gale force winds and heavy rain
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
2/7 Winter weather
A woman wraps up warm to fight the cold in London in 2013. A mixture of hail, snow, sleet and heavy showers is expected in Scotland and northwest England, the West Midlands and Northern Ireland
3/7 Winter weather
A motorcyclist tries to right his bike on the slippery road surface in London in 2004. The emergency services are advising motorists to be vigilant
4/7 Winter weather
A man is bombarded by sleet and hail on the Brighton seafront in 2013. The south of England is however expected to escape the brunt of the incoming bad weather
5/7 Winter weather
A woman wraps up against the wind and a blizzard of sea foam whipped up by the wind near Trearddur Bay in Anglesey, 2013. This year it is to be areas in south west of Wales that will see more “wintry” weather
6/7 Winter weather
Snow covers trees in the Parade Gardens in Bath last year. Heavy snow may bring widespread disruption to many parts of the UK
7/7 Winter weather
Snow and ice make getting around by vehicle difficult in the Yorkshire Dales in 2012. The tops of the moors will see more “wintry” weather on Monday night
John Giles/PA Wire
Some of Britain’s biggest retailers, such as Debenhams, House of Fraser, and John Lewis, started their traditional Boxing Day sales online on Christmas Eve. Prices on everything from sofas to flat screen televisions and fridge freezers have been halved on many websites.
And online shoppers are expected to spend £748 million today, or £519,000 a minute, and make 167 million visits to shopping websites - up 29 per cent on last year.
Many people will even start looking for new homes on Boxing Day, with property website Rightmove predicting more than a million visits to its website.
In a bid to get people through their doors today in spite of the wintry weather, some retailers are virtually giving away items. In the case of Gap, not content with offering up to 75 per cent off, it is also giving an extra 20 per cent off anything in the sale.
Department stores Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty and House of Fraser are offering designer goods at a fraction of their usual price, while Next and Marks & Spencer are offering up to 50 per cent off sale items.
Myf Ryan, marketing director, Westfield UK, said Boxing Day remains a “huge attraction” for shoppers. Last year saw 360,000 people visit its two centres in London, with queues forming at 5am. “This year we expect an exceptionally busy day yet again, fuelled by excellent retail offers and special deals with over 50% off by many of our 600 retailers.”
Many Britons have already begun selling unwanted presents to make money to spend on things they really want. Everything from watches to televisions, iPads and perfume went on sale on eBay yesterday, according to a report by the company which claims the total value of unwanted gifts is some £819 million.
An estimated 2.7 million Britons will put unwanted gifts up for sale on the website in days and weeks following Christmas Day. Steve Heywood, a spokesperson for the company, said: “Selling your unwanted gifts can be a good way of avoiding the embarrassment of asking for a receipt.”