Millions of shoppers are hitting Britain’s high streets on Boxing Day as shops reopen after an underwhelming Christmas period for traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers.
High street analysts have predicted a busy day, with 78% of sales expected to occur in shops rather than online. The Centre for Retail Research was expecting up to 22 million consumers to spend £3.74bn over the course of the day.
Many shops opened as early as 6am to take advantage of keen bargain-hunters and compete with large online retailers offering sales from Christmas Eve. Online retailers were predicting peak sales during the evening on Christmas Day.
Selfridges’ Oxford Street branch in London took more than £2m between 9am and 10am on Saturday – its most successful ever hour of trading. More than 3,000 people queued to enter the store, the company said. About 130,000 people are expected to pass through the branch over the course of the day, it added.
Michaela Moore, general manager at Birmingham’s Bullring, said she was expecting about 200,000 people to come to the shopping centre on Saturday in search of deals.
In-store sales on Boxing Day were being boosted by an influx of foreign shoppers, said Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, which represents 600 retailers in Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street.
He said: “We are in the West End, which is a huge international draw, so we see a lot of international shoppers here – 50% of our shoppers are tourists, particularly from China, the Middle East and the US, and they probably spend about four or five times the amount of a UK shopper.”
Online shoppers were expected to spend £856mon Saturday, up 22% on last year’s £699m, according to data firm Experian and online retail trade association IMRG. Online sales dipped on Christmas Day between 1pm and 4pm, as people sat down to lunch, but rose sharply later in the evening as people sat down to watch television.
John Lewis, which keeps its physical stores shut on Boxing Day, said it had seen a strong start to its online sale, with the first hour on Christmas Eve up 17.7% on last year. Selfridges said its Christmas Day online sales doubled compared with last year, with more than 1 million visitors to the website on Christmas Day and Boxing Day so far.
Bricks-and-mortar retailers slashed prices in the run-up to Christmas in an effort to tempt consumers away from online stores. The unusually mild weather in November and December was also a challenge for the high street, with shoppers buying less winter clothing than usual. Leftover stock is expected to drive January bargains, with many departments stores cutting prices by 50% from Saturday.
A number of Bond Street shops have opened on Boxing Day for the first time, as a result of it falling on a Saturday. Fenwick department store on Bond Street will open for its first Boxing Day in its 124-year history.
Steve Richardson, UK regional director at analysts FootFall, said: “With Boxing Day falling on a Saturday, this means for most an extended Christmas break with the extra bank holiday on Monday. We anticipate the extra day will motivate shoppers to use this additional day off to seek out further bargains, spend Christmas vouchers and even return or exchange unwanted Christmas gifts, causing shopper traffic to rise 3% year-on-year on Boxing Day.”
John Hannett, general secretary of trade union Usdaw, urged shoppers to respect retail staff, “particularly during the Boxing Day sales, when bargain-hunting can turn into a frenzy”.
He said: “We would prefer retailers to close for at least two days at Christmas, which would allow shopworkers a proper break and time to spend with their family. However, more and more shops are now opening for special sales promotions on Boxing Day, so we urge retailers to only staff those stores with employees who have volunteered to come in. Incidents of violence, threats and abuse against shopworkers are already worryingly high, so my message to shoppers is clear: enjoy your bargain hunting, keep your cool and respect shopworkers.”
This article was written by Joel Gunter, for theguardian.com on Saturday 26th December 2015 15.54 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010