Back for more: shops brace for Boxing Day onslaught after day of rest - and research: Many spent Christmas browsing sales online Billions expected to be spent in shops today
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Millions of shoppers are expected to hit the high street on Boxing Day for the biggest shopping day of the year - despite many having already snapped up bargains online on Christmas Day.
Internet sales were expected to top pounds 350m on Christmas Day, 15% more than last year as shoppers unwrapped tablet computers and smartphones and put them straight into action. This will increase today, with online sales predicted to be worth pounds 540m.
"The Boxing Day sales have traditionally been the day when we splash our Christmas cash; however, the relentless growth in online shopping and ever-earlier sales means that more and more of us are taking to the web on Christmas Day to secure the best bargains," said a spokesperson from Barclaycard, whose research found that almost a third of its customers planned to shop online and only 27% said they would brave the crowds.
But rather than a straight division between those shopping online and those going into stores, analysts said consumers were combining the two by researching their purchases on the internet but doing the actual spending in the stores.
"Boxing Day remains the stalwart of sales days in the shopping calendar and this year the sales will start earlier than ever, with retailers pulling the trigger and launching online campaigns on Christmas Day, so shoppers can browse the sales over their turkey and pick up a bargain. Most, however, will keep their sales goods to the shop floor," said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG.
John Lewis began its online sale at 5pm on Christmas Day, while Marks & Spencer and Currys PC World launched their sales on Christmas Eve.
John Lewis said that Christmas Day and Boxing Day last year were its busiest online shopping days of 2012, and it expects to repeat that this year. Shoppers picking up goods they have already ordered online will boost the number of high-street visitors on Boxing Day.
Online transactions make up just a fraction of the pounds 2.6bn total that will be splashed out on Boxing Day, according to Verdict Research.
Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre is expecting more than 200,000 visitors, which will compete with the first weekend in December when the last pre-Christmas payday combined with US-style Black Friday discounts to draw in 230,000 visitors. At least 800,000 shoppers are expected to hit London's West End to snap up bargains from the likes of Selfridges and Topshop.
Smartphones are likely to play a growing role in helping shoppers quickly bag bargains they have had their eye on.
Andrew McClelland, chief operating officer of IMRG, said: "Mobile device usage really is changing the way we shop." He said smartphones accounted for 20% of online sales via mobile devices as shoppers bought items on the move, but tablet computers were allowing more and more people to shop easily online from the comfort of the sofa. Furniture, homewares, clothing and electrical goods are all expected to sell well post-Christmas, potentially offering a boost to stores that have struggled to sell big-ticket items during the economic downturn.
Shoppers in the south-east of England, where the housing market has been buoyant, are likely to splash out on large homewares but shoppers in the north of England, where prices have not moved on, may be less exuberant, according to McCorquodale.
"I don't expect consumers to throw caution completely to the wind. The average shopper has a limited budget and needs to stick to it: confidence doesn't feed the family, cash does, and until wages rise, this cost-focused mentality will be here to stay," he said.
This year's Boxing Day sales may have less impact as a large proportion of the high street has been offering discounts for several weeks. Clothing stores and shoe shops have been keenest to offer bargains but department stores Debenhams and House of Fraser have been offering deals across the store.
Nearly three quarters of 100 major retailers monitored by PwC, the accountancy firm, were offering sales last week, with discounts averaging 46%.
Marks & Spencer was offering discounts of up to 30% on knitwear and Per Una clothing last week and all clothing at the weekend, while stores from New Look to House of Fraser offered discounts of up to 50%. However, Maureen Hinton at analysts Verdict Research, said: "Shoppers will have been waiting until after Christmas because they know they can get even bigger discounts on items they want for themselves."
Those retailers that have really saved their discounts until after Christmas will see the most visitors, analysts expect. Tim Walley, general manager of the Bullring, said he expects about 2,000 bargain-hunters to queue outside fashion and homewares chain Next in the early hours of Boxing Day, with childrenswear among its big draws.
Asda said it expected a busier than ever Boxing Day, with 2 million customers coming through its doors and more than a million hits online.
It is hoping that deals on electrical goods will be a bigger draw than its Black Friday sales earlier this month, when some shoppers were injured in the rush to bag cheap TVs and other electrical goods.
Meanwhile, Harrods will be tempting shoppers to its famous annual sale with hot drinks, food and a butler service for those queuing outside the Knightsbridge department store.
Harrods spokesperson Katharine Witty said: "We always raise the bar at every sale opening and this year we decided to do what we do best inside the store - only outside the store. Customers will therefore be treated to fantastic service, canapes and entertainment while they queue. We even have specially made blankets to keep out the chill."
Last-minute crowds on Oxford Street on Monday, a scene likely to be repeated today Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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