26 Dec 2011

Britain’s busiest Boxing Day ever?

An estimated four million shoppers cram the UK’s high streets for the Boxing Day sales – with spending hitting record levels. Asha Tanna reports on the battle to beat off economic gloom.

Shoppers spent “record” amounts of money on Britain’s high streets as they hunted for bargains in the Boxing Day sales.

Traders in London’s West End said they had taken £15m in the first three hours of the sales as hundreds of thousands of shoppers looked for bargains.

Selfridges department stores claimed they had seen their biggest ever first hour of trading after opening four stores in England at 9am, with hourly takings thought to have peaked at £1.3m.

Read more: Tube strike delays for London shoppers

Shoppers turned out despite transport problems on London. Tube services were hit as as drivers in the Aslef union staged a 24-hour walkout.

London Underground said more services were running than expected but warned customers that disruption remained “likely”.

In the US today has been dubbed “Mega Monday” with predictions up to 60 per cent more shoppers will visit stores than on this day last year.

Britain's busiest ever Boxing Day sales? (Reuters)

Sue West, retail director at Selfridges, told Channel 4 News between 150,000-200,000 have passed through the department store’s doors since this morning.

She said: “I think the one thing that really draws out the crowds particularly when times are tough are sales; and putting bargains out on Boxing Day seems to draw the crowds and this year is no exception.

“We saw Christmas start a little slower than we have seen in recent years, but certainly the last week has been phenomenal. This year for us was the perfect storm for retailers having Christmas to trade right the way through to the end of a Saturday gives us a very very strong Christmas week and we saw it.

We saw Christmas start a little slower than we have seen in recent years, but certainly the last week has been phenomenal. Sue West

“The online sale started yesterday slightly ahead of the stores and we saw sales up, double the previous year. From our perspective having 700,000sq feet of retail space on Oxford Street we very much believe in large spending with stores. We have a store that has been running over 100 years now, so we’ve been building the business up over a long period. Our online business is still fledgling – it’s growing at a faster rate than the stores – but it has a long way to go to catch up.”

There has been a similar story around the country.

Peter Cook, centre director at the White Rose Shopping Centre, in Leeds, said shoppers started to arrive for the Next sale at 1.30am, with around 3,000 in the queue when the shop opened at 6am. There were another 300 people in the queue for the sale at Debenhams.

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.

Oxford Street stabbing

A man has been stabbed to death in Oxford Street, London, the Metropolitan Police confirm.

The man, believed to be in his late teens or early 20s, was killed near the junction with Stratford Place, opposite Bond Street underground station.

Police said a number of arrests have been made after they were called at around 1.45pm.

Officers, an air ambulance and a London Ambulance Service team attended but the man was pronounced dead at the scene and a cordon was put in place.