Tens of thousands of shoppers across Scotland are set to hit the high streets today in what retailers hope will be a knockout day of sales after a challenging year which saw some of the worst sales figures on record.
Heavy discounts are expected as shops attempt to lure consumers out and boost sales after a disappointing run up to Christmas.
However, analysts warned the traditional start to the January sales period has lost some of its lustre among retailers due to Black Friday, with an increasing number of chains opting to stay closed altogether today.
The number of people heading to the Boxing Day sales has fallen for three consecutive years, according to retail analysts, Springboard, and the British Retail Consortium said it expects consumers to flock online instead of heading to physical stores.
READ MORE: John Lewis offers Christmas Day bargains from 5pm
John Lewis looked to step ahead of the competition by giving eager shoppers the chance to bag deals online from 5pm yesterday, with huge price cuts across all categories including fashion, tech, electricals and furniture.
Research by the Centre for Retail Research suggests that across the UK, shoppers will spend £3.25 billion in stores, a fall of 12.4 per cent on last year. However, online sales are predicted to spike by 10 per cent to £1.14bn.
Even so, with relatively mild weather forecast, shopping centres and high streets are bracing themselves for an influx of bargain hunters.
David Lyon, marketing manager for Braehead shopping centre in Renfrew, near Glasgow, said he expected queues of shoppers to form “before the sun rises.”
He added: “Boxing Day remains one of our busiest shopping days of the year.”
Next, which has previously spurned pre-Christmas sales in favour of deep discounting on Boxing Day, will be among the first to open its stores, with large crowds expected before the doors open at 6am.
In what could be its last Christmas on Princes Street, Jenners – one of Edinburgh’s best known retailers – will begin welcoming argain hunters at 8am, with the store remaining open until 7pm.
Another big name, Harvey Nichols, is also expecting high footfall, but will not open until 10am, and is closing at 6pm.
However, in a sign of how changing consumer habits and online sales are impacting on the high street, an increasing number of retailers are turning their back on a day they once treasured.
Homebase, the troubled DIY and home furnishings chain, is the latest big name to decide to keep its stores closed on what has long been regarded as the busiest shopping day of the year.
Damian McGloughlin, the group’s chief executive, said the move was intended as a “huge thank you” to its employees.
According to its website, Marks & Spencer will open just seven of its stores across Scotland, although it will be offering extensive discounts online.
The same tactic is true of its competitor, John Lewis. Along with Waitrose, Its three Scottish stores – including the flagship outlet in Glasgow’s Buchanan Galleries shopping centre – will stay closed.
According to retail experts, Boxing Day’s pull has been hard hit by the advent of Black Friday and a near continuous period of sales in the weeks leading up to Christmas, including the big day itself.
A study by the Centre for Retail Research, based on interviews with 1,000 shoppers and 80 retailers, suggests Scots spent a record £101 million on online shopping yesterday, as many big high street names launched their sales
That figure is up almost 20 per cent on the £85m that was splashed out on Christmas Day 2018.
A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “Sales traditionally start on Boxing Day, but many retailers are taking advantage of online browsing on Christmas Day to offer discount offers sooner.”
Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Wunderman Thompson Commerce, said: “Pre-end of year discounting has changed unrecognisably in the last decade. The introduction of Black Friday is of course at the heart of this, but in general, we have seen a shift of sales earlier in the year.
“Many retailers started Black Friday discounting in early November to beat the rush, while the retail giant Amazon started its Countdown to Black Friday deals on 18 December.”
He added: “This trend of continuous discounting since Black Friday means that Boxing Day is less distinct as many deals can be had now, pre-Christmas.”
Nick Carroll, associate director of retail research at Mintel, described the prolonged sales period as the “Christmas creep” and said that with the “majority of the sector engaged in Black Friday, they don’t need to go in on Boxing Day.”
Jason Gordon, lead consumer analytics partner at Deloitte, said the introduction of Black Friday had resulted in “a blending of promotions, one seeping into the next, and a steady price decline rather than a steep Boxing Day drop.”
It comes as Springboard research found the number of shoppers buying gifts on so-called Super Saturday fell significantly from last year.
Footfall was down 7.6 per cent on the last shopping weekend before Christmas, the firm said. Separate research by Ipsos put the slump at 6.2 per cent.
Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: “Super Saturday was not as super as many non-food retailers would have wished for.
Trading for the last full week before Christmas – from Sunday 15 to last Saturday – was also down on the same period a year earlier, as footfall dipped 7.2 per cent, according to
Springboard. It said high streets and shopping centres particularly bore the brunt of this decline, with numbers down eight per cent and 7.2 per cent. respectively.