The seasonal sales started early this year, with shoppers buying discounted goods online on Christmas Day and sale items as late presents on Christmas Eve.
Retailers that started early sales included HMV, Clarks, Miss Selfridge, French Connection, Benetton, Gap and Mango, the clothes store.
Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, halved the price of some non-food items, from bread-making machines to food processors. Its sales of non-food items over the internet were up more than 50 per cent on Christmas last year. At peak times Tesco.com took 5,000 orders an hour. One million shoppers have used it over the past two months.
The store said that its most popular DVDs were Madagascar and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while Need for Speed was the most popular computer game for the Playstation 2. It said that CD sales had also been strong, with Robbie Williams' Intensive Care album and Now That's What I Call Music: 62 topping the charts.
A spokesman for the Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield said it had been very busy on Christmas Eve because of the early sales.
"I think a lot of people have left their Christmas shopping to the last minute. There are quite a few stores who are not waiting for Boxing Day and have already started the sales. And there are quite a few bargains out there to be had, such as winter boots and coats," the spokesman said.
Nick Bubb, a retail analyst at Evolution Beeson Gregory, said: "The Boxing Day sale is a devalued currency; retailers need to offer some kind of perceived deal, even if it is all hype. It is down to the mentality of people demanding a deal at a time of belt-tightening."
Dixons, Comet, PC World, HMV, Currys, Argos, Woolworths and Virgin Megastore all started their on-line sales yesterday. Comet estimated that 100,000 customers had bought items from its online shop yesterday, and similar numbers were expected today.
Mr Bubb said that the only place the Boxing Day sale still existed in any meaningful format was in large out-of-town retail parks, including stores such as MFI and B&Q.
However, some analysts still believe in the January sales phenomenon. Richard Ratner, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce, said: "The post-Christmas sales are still there. People do defer some spending."
Shops that are starting their sales today include Miss Selfridge, Shelly's and Top Shop, although many discounted goods had already been put on sale. The Body Shop, Boots and Superdrug were also starting sales today, joining Books Etc, Borders and Waterstones.
A survey conducted for the hotel chain Travelodge estimated that spending in the post-Christmas sales would reach £1.4bn. More than 11 million people would battle through the streets, spending an average of £130 each, it concluded. Thirty per cent of men would know exactly what they wanted to buy before the sales started and 17 per cent would set themselves a maximum spending limit. Among female shoppers, however, only 18 per cent would set out with a particular item in mind and eight per cent set themselves a spending limit.
The pick of the sales
* Yohji Yamamoto: black strapless mousseline dress with yellow pom-poms. Was £5,440, now £3,264 Sale starts Wednesday, 14/15 Conduit Street, Central London. Reductions start at 40%
* Pollyanna, Barnsley: Lanvin trenchcoat. Was £1,000, now £700. Sale starts tomorrow, reductions start at 40%
* Selfridges, Central London: Yves Saint Laurent sheepskin coat, right. Was £1915, now £957.50. Sale starts today
* Harvey Nichols Knightsbridge: Chloe black broadcloth coat. Was £1400, now £700. Sale starts tomorrow
* Harvey Nichols Leeds: Prada red flower long sleeve dress. Was £1795, now £898. Sale starts tomorrow
* Liberty, Regent Street, Central London: Mulberry pink Pheobe bag Was £595, now £416.50. Sale starts tomorrow.
* Nationwide Diesel stores: Diesel "82H Wash" men's jeans. Were £150, now £130. Sale starts tomorrow.
* www.net-a-porter.com: Emilio Pucci dress. Was £635, now £190.50. Sale starts Wednesday.
* Selfridges London, Birmingham and Manchester: Guerlain terracotta make-up palette. Was £39.50, now £19.75 Sale starts today.Reuse content