Shoppers are expected to spend a record amount on the high street today as shops brought forward the start of their sales and cut prices by as much as 75 per cent.
Almost all stores are starting their New Year sales today instead of in January. For the first time in its 175-year history, Harrods is opening for a full day's Boxing Day trading, offering discounts of thousands of pounds on big ticket furniture.
Boxing Day falling on a Saturday will make today the busiest Boxing Day's shopping in history, according to the retail industry.
Harvey Nichols is reducing the price of designer men's and women's clothing by up to half, for instance marking down a Donna Karan blazer from £1,180 to £590, while Selfridges is offering 75 per cent off Stella McCartney and 50 per cent off Roberto Cavalli at its stores in London, Birmingham and Manchester.
Debenhams says its sale, starting at 7am, will be its "biggest ever", explaining: "The move is designed to specifically go head to head with high street rivals and attract customers on what will be one of the busiest shopping days of the year."
Swedish giant Ikea is pricing down flatpack furniture and beds to capitalise on the property slump trend for improving rather than moving, while DIY chain B&Q claim its half-price offers on kitchens and bathrooms amounts to its biggest ever sale.
Cheap technology is on offer at Carphone Warehouse and PC World, which is reducing Sony laptops from £699 to £499 and knocking £100 off a HP desktop computer.
Marks & Spencer and John Lewis are shut today, opening their sales tomorrow, but both have started sales online, taking advantage of the trend for the public to snap up web bargains, particularly for large household items, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
"More of the sales are starting today than in the past and this will be the biggest retail Boxing Day we have seen," said Richard Dodd, media director of the British Retail Consortium.
"It's partly a response to these difficult times when retailers are trying to encourage consumers in and to make the most of all the shopping days before they return to work, but also because Boxing Day happens to be a Saturday and it makes sense for retailers to open their sales."
Yesterday, 4.3 million shoppers spent £120m, according to estimates from the Interactive Media In Retail Group which represents e-tailers.
Brian McBride, Amazon UK's managing director, said: "In 2008, we saw a 150 per cent increase in sales on Christmas Day compared to the previous year. One of the great things about the advent of internet shopping is that stores are open 24/7, every single day of the year."
Retailers will be hoping the sales season restores some sparkle to a Christmas hampered by heavy snowfall. At the start of the month they had expected higher revenue than last December, when sales slipped by 3.3 per cent, but last week's snow wrecked some internet deliveries and discouraged some shoppers from venturing out to shops.
As a result, footfall in non-food stores in the UK fell 7 per cent last weekend compared with the corresponding week of 2008 against a forecast of a rise of 3.7 per cent. Last Saturday the number of individual Barclaycard transactions fell by 7 per cent.
Nonetheless, the BRC remained confident that retailers would enjoy a better December than last year.
However, Don Williams, head of retail at accountants BDO, warned shoppers not to dither. He said: "We predict the discounted stock will go quickly and the sales won't last long. People will have less time to grab themselves a bargain this Boxing Day."
The sales : Where to go and what to buy
Today: at Trafford Centre, Manchester. Tomorrow in other stores. Up to 50 per cent off electronics, homewares and fashion
Bargain – Charlotte antiqued cotbed was £197, now £98.50
*Marks and Spencer
Tomorrow: Up to 60 per cent across most ranges in womenswear, menswear, accessories and home –
Aveley two seater sofa was £799, now £349
Today for most stores, tomorrow in Belfast and Cardiff, sales in Croydon and Glasgow already underway:
Up to 60 per cent off drawers, coffee tables, beds and lamps
Bargain - Hemnes brown chest of three drawers was £119, now £59
Today: Up to 50 per cent off fashion and beauty
Bargain – Jasper Conran Corset Panel Dress was £75, now £35
Today: Up to 75 per cent off womenswear, menswear and home
Bargain – Balenciaga large tote bag was £1,225, now £612
Today: Discounts across store
Bargain – Plantation leather grand sofa was £5,729, now £2,859
Today: Discount: Up to 60 per cent off clothing and homewear
Bargain – Sophie Gray Dress was £40, now £20
Christmas Eve: Up to 50 per cent off kitchens, fridges and power tools
Bargain – Cooke & Lewis Narissa bathroom suite was £1343, now £671
Today: Up to 25 per cent off laptops, up to 60 per cent off mobile phones
Bargain – Sony Ericsson K330 mobile phone was £25, now £14.95
*Fortnum and Mason
Tomorrow: Up to 50 per cent off fashion, accessories and cookware
Christmas Eve: Up to 55 per cent off bicycles
Bargain – Apollo Mens Town & Trail Bike was £179.99, now £84.99
Today (Dublin tomorrow): Up to 50 per cent across autumn/winter fashion
Bargain – Marc Jacob Robert Jennifer Bag, was £975, now £585
Today: Up to 70 per cent off CDs and DVDs
Bargain – Ultimate Bourne Collection DVD Box Set, below, was £20, now £10
Today: Up to 50 per cent off menswear and womenswear
Today: Up to 50 per cent off shoes, handbags, jewellery, lingerie and furniture
Bargain – Chloe crystal clutch bag was £680, now £340
Today: Up to 50 per cent off clothing
Bargain – Pearl Lowe for Peacocks black maxi dress was £40, now £22
Today: Up to 30 per cent off laptops
Bargain – Sony laptop with Intel pentium processor was £699, now £499
Today: Up to 40 per cent off fragrances
Bargain – Estee Lauder pure colour gloss trio was £14.99, now £9.99
Today: Up to 75 per cent off
Bargain – This Mitchell And Webb Book, by David Mitchell and Robert Webb, was £18.99, now £9.49
*Alexander Wang bustier dress was £735, now £441, at Selfridges
*Chloe boots were £465, now £232.50, at Harvey Nichols
*Mulberry Bayswater clutch in croc print suede was, £495, now £346
*Whistles belted biker coat was £265 now £130Reuse content