Millions of bargain hunters plunged into yesterday’s Boxing Day sales, while others plunged into a different kind – into frozen surf.
Retailers celebrated as shoppers defied expectations and hit stores in droves, with numbers nationwide up more than 50 percent from a year ago.
In London, turnout more than doubled last year despite dire predictions that train strikes and a cost-of-living crisis would spell disaster on the West End exit.
It increased in main streets by 59.4 percent, in shopping centers by 46.6 percent, and in commercial complexes by 33.7 percent.
The number of customers in central London rose by a staggering 139.2 per cent.
And had it not been for the crippling national rail strikes, the results would have been better.
Meanwhile, strong spirits – many of them in fancy dress – cleared their Christmas hangovers with a traditional Boxing Day dip on Britain’s chilly coasts, including Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
Other charity events included a buggy race in Windlesham, Surrey.
The sunny weather and post-Covid noise made for a shockingly good day in stores, said Diane Wehrle, of Springboard retail research group.
She said: “Retailers will be very optimistic after today. It proves that physical stores are still very important to shoppers.
“It’s the validation that many retailers need. If given the opportunity to spend a day out shopping, people will do it.
“It gives companies something solid to work with going into next year, which is going to be tough and challenging.
Inflation and the cost of living crisis overshadow everything. In January, many consumers will curb their spending because things will get more expensive.
“But today it is showing that when they are able to shop, they prefer to go to the store rather than the Internet.”
She added: “The Boxing Day sale is a great British tradition. This is the first Christmas proper since Covid and people wanted to make it cool.
“Many saw it as a ‘last breather’ before the recession really starts to set in. Some may also be trying to outpace inflation — they know prices will rise in 2023, so it’s a good idea to buy things now before they get more expensive in a few months.” .
“It was also a great day for a lot of the UK, and that really helps retail. We see that very clearly in the turnout data – you have a bad weather day and people don’t want to go out.
“When it’s dry and sunny, it makes you want to be outside, so people make the effort.”
Ms. Wehrle noted that Boxing Day was a Sunday last year so trading hours were more restricted – but said this year’s consolidation was still “significant and exciting”.
It is believed that many people cut short their Christmas vacations with their families to go home yesterday or spent the day indoors to avoid the chaos of travel altogether. However, London thronged with shoppers eager to snap up bargains at iconic West End department stores.
Sophie Baker, 25, from Brighton, traveled to a south London suburb and crossed the tube to Oxford Street before queuing to get to Selfridges.
She said: “I’m so excited. The Boxing Day sales are a great tradition and I haven’t been able to take advantage of them for a few years.
London is the best city in the world for shopping.
Sophie Baker, 25, from Brighton
“I have a list of things I want to get and I’m determined to get the best deals.
“London is the best city in the world for shopping and I can’t wait for you to stumble upon it. My credit card is burning a hole in my pocket!”
Jenny Tandina, 33, of Romford, Essex, bought discount clothing at the Westfield Shopping Center in Stratford, east London.
She said, “The sale is one of the best things about Christmas. I’ll be shopping every day from now until New Year’s, looking for bargains.”
John Lewis closed yesterday but has seen online sales pick up.
A spokesperson said: “Our sale is already off to a really strong start online, with demand picking up last year, and will start in our branches from December 27th.”
“Whether they’re upgrading their homes or wardrobes, cost-conscious customers are making the most of our great deals to get the 2023 discount off on the right foot,” he added. Meanwhile, the M&S went on sale online on Christmas Eve and is in store as of today.
Shoppers target fashion, leisure and fitness products, Harver Dillon, of the British Retail Consortium, said, ahead of their New Year’s resolutions. But, she added, “However, due to the rising cost of living, consumers are generally spending more cautiously.”
Boxing Day turnout did not return to pre-pandemic levels, remaining 30.5 percent lower than in 2019.
Covid rules are thought to have affected shoppers last December, with restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Hunters come out
Thousands of fishing followers gathered yesterday for their first full Boxing Day meet since the restrictions imposed by the pandemic outbreak.
The Countryside Alliance said more than 200 packs of hounds have led to legal action and chases across the country.
Activists wearing masks protested peacefully. But in some areas, car tires have been slashed.
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