Shoppers set Boxing Day sales records online and in store

Britons spent 14 million hours trawling websites yesterday

Boxing Day set a new British record for online shopping, figures showed today as crowds descended on high streets once again for another day of frenzied sales.

While thousands of shoppers queued outside stores up and down the country to get ahead of the game, millions more made the most of tumbling prices from the comfort of their own homes.

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.

Britons spent 14 million hours trawling websites yesterday, paying around 113 million visits to online retailers on what became the UK's biggest day for internet shopping, analysts said.

Web sales were up by 17% on Boxing Day last year, according to market data firm Experian.

Figures were slightly lower than the 126 million online visits predicted for Boxing Day, something experts attributed to a "sales creep" which saw retailers begin to slash prices before Christmas.

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian, said: "Boxing Day set a new British record for online shopping with 113 million visits going to retail websites in a single day.

"However, with a number of the major retailers bringing their sales forward to Christmas Eve, the impact of that was that Boxing Day was slightly muted and not as prolific as we forecast."

Figures show that Christmas Eve was 86% bigger than last year as a shopping day, and Christmas Day was 71% bigger.

While Boxing Day fell short of expectations, online shopping is still set to be up on last year by about 30%.

The figures emerged as stores threw open their doors this morning, offering further discounts and sparking scenes of mayhem on shop floors.

It was another busy day in London's bustling West End where footfall hit record levels yesterday - up 31.3% on Boxing Day last year.

Similar scenes played out across the rest of the country as retailers offered hefty discounts in a bid to lure shoppers and compete with online rivals.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said the dash for discounts was boosted by consumers who were feeling the pinch.

BRC spokesman Richard Dodd said: "Customers are under lots of financial pressure and are really keen on seeking out value and taking advantage of bargains.

"Today will be another big day when some retailers will launch their sales and that will help to continue the momentum."

Kent's Bluewater shopping centre, which welcomed 130,000 visitors yesterday - some of whom queued from 1am - said it was expecting an even busier day today.

The mall, which predicts some 900,000 people will surge through its doors during the next six days, is open until 10pm tonight.

Robert Goodman, Bluewater's general manager, said: "Boxing Day's momentum has continued into today, with the opening of the John Lewis clearance sale being a major draw."