Stores record biggest sales day in history

Opening on Boxing Day proved to be a shrewd move for Britain's retailers, once consumers battled through the traffic
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The Independent Online

It may only have been 27 December, but the January sales got under way in earnest yesterday with record numbers of bargain hunters reported in Britain's stores.

Three of Britain's biggest shopping centres were predicting record numbers of visitors, with 190,000 expected at Bluewater near Dartford, Kent, more than 110,000 at the Trafford Centre in Manchester and 72,000 at Cribbs Causeway in Bristol.

Experts predicted that more than £9bn would be spent on the post-Christmas sales, while the AA reported tailbacks to major retail outlets across Britain but particularly at Bluewater, at the Harlequin shopping centre in Exeter and Lakeside in Essex. John Lewis, the department store, whose sale started yesterday, was also anticipating a record-breaking number of shoppers.

While some sales began early on Boxing Day - with several retailers celebrating their biggest turnover - the majority of stores began their sales yesterday. Gareth Thomas, director of retail operations at John Lewis, said there were queues outside all 26 stores. "We hope to have the biggest weekend ever. We had a sales turnover of £17m on the same day last year and we are confident of reaching about £20m this year."

Staff at Next in Oxford Circus, London, were greeted by massive queues of shoppers when they opened at 5am.

At Bluewater, about 190,000 were expected throughout the day. Traffic reached gridlock towards the end of the afternoon, according to the AA. A Bluewater spokeswoman said: "A lot of retailers reported having their best Christmas ever and that looks set to continue into the sales. Visitor numbers were up and sales were up, so it was a great Christmas for Bluewater. It really has bucked the trend."

It was a similar situation at the Trafford Centre in Manchester. General manager Andy Orr confirmed that on Boxing Day, the first day of sales, more than 110,000 people visited the site and he expected at least 5,000 more visitors yesterday.

But the most eager bargain hunter was a man who arrived at the Sony Centre in Leeds on Christmas Eve to be first in the queue when the doors opened at 9am on Boxing Day. He had his eye on a camcorder, reduced from £499 to £99. Store manager David Smith said: "He just sat in his car outside until we opened."

Debenhams, Dixons, PC World, Currys and Argos were among those that opened their doors on Friday, as well as Selfridges in Oxford Street, which opened on Boxing Day for the first time. Queues started forming from 7am. Chief executive Peter Williams said: "There were about 500 people outside, and in fact the revolving doors jammed at one point.

"We did much better than we thought we would. I suspect that Boxing Day opening will become a regular feature. Opening on Boxing Day is all about giving our customers more choice, which they have obviously welcomed."