Shops enjoy record Boxing Day trade


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The Independent Online

Retailers and shopping malls have reported "record-breaking" levels of trade as Boxing Day bargain hunters kicked off the post-Christmas sales.

Upmarket department store Selfridges said it had enjoyed record first-hour sales levels despite a Tube strike in the capital, while Kent's Bluewater shopping centre expressed delight at strong demand for luxury and big ticket items.

Other retail centres around the country also experienced strong or best-ever spending levels - with London's Brent Cross mall taking up to £1,000 a second as shoppers sought to take advantage of discounts of up to 75%.

Many retailers reported bargain hunters arriving from the early hours, including at Birmingham's Bullring complex, which saw thousands of people queueing for sales at its Selfridges and Next stores.

Although a fatal stabbing forced the closure of some stores on Oxford Street this afternoon, many retailers in London and other parts of the UK said they had made their best ever start to the traditional post-Christmas rush.

Selfridges confirmed that it had beaten Boxing Day records set in 2009 - with trade at its stores in London, Manchester and Birmingham up by 15% on the same day two years ago.

Sue West, Selfridges' director of operations, said: "Despite Tube disruptions and launching our sale on a Sunday, we had record sales in our first hour.

"Ladies' accessories and jewellery have been the main attractions with high value diamond pieces driving Selfridges' Wonder Room sales."

Selfridges branches in Birmingham and Manchester offered customers the chance to purchase a limited number of "golden tickets" for £50, which allowed exclusive access an hour before the stores opened.

Despite the issue of the tickets, more than 700 customers queued from the early hours to get into Selfridges' Exchange store in Manchester, while 1,700 people queued outside the Birmingham branch.

The Bluewater complex said a number of its retailers had achieved best-ever levels of spend, propelling many to pole position within their chains on a national level.

Bluewater's retail manager James Waugh said luxury items, such as premium-branded handbags and accessories, young fashion ranges, electricals and other big ticket items had been in greatest demand.

"Today is the start of the busiest week of the year at Bluewater, during which over 950,000 guests are expected to visit, and we are delighted with how it has begun," Mr Waugh observed.

Meanwhile, Brent Cross welcomed 10,000 shoppers within an hour of opening, having drafted in 20 extra traffic wardens to ensure car parks could cope with demand.

The centre's general manager Tom Nathan pinpointed value as being at the top of customers' priorities.

But he added: "That doesn't mean they are buying cheap brands. In fact they are buying premium trusted brands, but at great savings.

"We estimate that shoppers today will spend an average of £250 each."

The manager of Braehead Shopping Centre, near Glasgow, Peter Beagley, welcomed an army of shoppers who arrived at the crack of dawn to queue outside its Next and Hollister outlets.

"The number of shoppers coming to Braehead on Boxing Day is up on last year and we're expecting this trend to continue," he said. "It's a tradition that people come out to the shops on Boxing Day and this year is no different."

Leicester's Highcross centre estimated that it had seen around 90,000 visitors, some of whom arrived at 2am to queue.

Jo Tallack, general manager at Highcross, credited huge discounting as a significant motivator for many shoppers and predicted that tomorrow would see similar high sales levels.

At Cabot Circus shopping centre in Bristol, some shoppers queued from 5am to get first choice in the early scramble for bargains.

Centre director Kevin Duffy said: "Cabot Circus has performed well over the festive season and it has been consistently strong - in the week leading up to Christmas we saw a 19% increase in shoppers visiting the centre compared to the same period last year."

At Birmingham's Bullring retail complex, which has attracted 1.3 million visitors in the last week, queues began to form as early as 2am.

The 160-store centre estimated that 9,000 visitors had hit its shops by 9am.

Predicting that almost 230,000 bargain hunters would visit the centre during Boxing Day, Bullring general manager Tim Walley said: "There is a lot of talk about internet shopping but people still like to come out to shop and feel the goods."

Despite the effects of the Tube drivers' strike over a pay dispute, traders in London's West End said they had taken £15 million in the first three hours of the sales.

Jace Tyrrell of the New West End Company, which represents traders on Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said: "As ever, the West End's Boxing Day sales have attracted shoppers in their hundreds of thousands.

"Whilst there was heavy discounting pre-Christmas, retailers have pulled out all the stops with additional deals and refreshed merchandise to entice bargain hunters and offers will be available into the new year.

"Retailers are reporting that home electrics and fashion accessories, discounted by up to 70%, are flying off the shelves."