Shoppers queued all night, traffic was brought to a standstill, car-parks overflowed and the police were even called in to maintain order as Boxing Day sales fever gripped Britain.
Sales records tumbled as cash tills rang across the country, with shoppers hoping to secure bargains as prices were cut by up to 75 per cent. Fears of consumers tightening their belts in the face of tough economic conditions were quickly shelved, with an estimated 10 million shoppers believed to have spent about £2.9bn.
While it was also the biggest day for consumers staying home and shopping online, thousands headed for their nearest high street. In the first three hours of trading, footfall was up by more than a fifth on last year, according to the research company Springboard.
The numbers shopping in Cambridge rose by more than 46 per cent on a year earlier, while the biggest rise came in Northampton, where activity was more than 50 per cent higher. Thousands headed to London’s Oxford Street, with one of its most famous department stores, Selfridges, enjoying the most successful first hour of trade in its history, raking in £1.5m.
A queue of more than 2,500 people had snaked around the perimeter of the famous building by the time it opened its doors at 9am, with 250 security guards brought in to keep those pouring through the doors under control. The store expected the number of customers to hit 250,000 yesterday.
Experts predicted London’s West End would see a total of 800,000 shoppers by the end of the day, with the total sum spent predicted to hit £50m, driven up by international bargain-hunters.
There was also a spike in customers from the Middle East, China and Nigeria, but many other nationalities were represented. The London Underground strike failed to dampen enthusiasm in the capital, although it did contribute to traffic chaos around the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush and delayed the nearby Premiership game between QPR and West Bromwich Albion.
Westfield’s sites were swamped, with escalators overflowing and shops such as Next forced to create their own traffic-management system inside.
Queues began to form outside the huge Bluewater shopping centre in Kent at 1am yesterday, with a queue of 3,000 waiting by 7am. General manager Robert Goodman said it was “certainly one of the busiest starts ever”.
In Essex, the Lakeside Shopping Centre, whose car park overflowed on to the road obstructing the traffic, brought in staff from 3am. Manchester’s Trafford Centre had the biggest Boxing Day sale in its history with 20,000 people arriving by 8am. The operators of the complex were forced to draft in police to keep order.
Boxing day sales: The rush for great deals
“We came to Kensington to avoid the crowds”
Kathy Wong, 19, Leicester
“I live in Leicester and I came down to London to shop in the sales. We decided to try and avoid the crowds this year so we headed for High Street Kensington and it has been pretty good. We went to Oxford Street two years ago and that was pretty chaotic. We also went round Westfield which has similar chaos. I am going to come back again next year but probably here.”
“If I had my way I would be still in bed”
Percy Lemdrum, 22, London
“The centre of town is far too busy, we wanted to go to the sales somewhere it was a bit quieter. If I had my way I would be still in bed, but my younger brother wanted to go shopping early. To be honest we have managed to get everything we needed without too much fuss, and the deals were pretty good. I got everything from socks to protein shakes.”
“We wanted to experience the sales”
Giulia Casarin, 23, Brazil, pictured, & Bianca Babick, 23, Brazil
“They have great sales in London on Boxing Day and we wanted to experience them. We wanted to buy all of our skiing gear for a holiday. In Brazil, there is no snow, so to buy skiing equipment is really expensive. We are very happy about what we’ve been able to pick up and are about to head to Oxford Street. We hope it’s not too crowded.”
“Oxford Street is hell on earth on Boxing Day”
Edward Middleton, 72, English national living in Paphos, Cyprus
“We have done pretty well today and avoided most of the shopping rush. I would not dream of going to Oxford Street, it is just hell on earth on Boxing Day. I’ve made that mistake before and I certainly won’t be returning. We are looking to buy some shoes in the sales; I’ve called my wife Imelda Marcos, so that gives you some indication of the scale.”