Tens of thousands of Scots shoppers are set to brave the Boxing Day sales today as high street retailers prepare to slash prices to unprecedented levels.
Experts predict a 6 per cent rise in footfall as consumers scramble to find the best deals on the traditional kick-off to the January sales period.
The chance of snagging a bargain on Boxing Day is expected to see £1 million spent a minute across the UK with prices slashed by up to 80 per cent.
And online sales for Christmas Day were predicted to break £1 billion for the first time – up 11 per cent on last year – according to a Centre for Retail Research study for VoucherCodes, based on interviews with 80 major UK retailers and 1,000 shoppers.
Much of that spending was expected yesterday, as shoppers spent freshly-unwrapped gift vouchers online before the evening television schedule began at 6pm.
About a third of Britons or 34 per cent will go to the festive sales, up from 23 per cent last year, according to Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all debit and credit card transactions in the UK.
Barclaycard’s poll found months of “feeling the squeeze” this year is resulting in many consumers looking forward to the sales to ease their budgets.
More than half of shoppers or 51 per cent are planning to spend more on Boxing Day than they did on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at Stirling University, said added uncertainty over Brexit and declining incomes caused by austerity has put consumers off in the run up to Christmas.
He said: “Retail is not in a great place at the moment because of austerity, because people have lower incomes now and that is coming against the backdrop of Brexit which has of course devalued the pound. It has all contributed to things feeling more expensive for consumers, which may have put them off the usual pre-Christmas rush.
“Black Friday has slightly superseded the Boxing Day sales as the big retail event of the year. That is now the day that most consumers associate with picking up all of the best bargains. But as with anything in retail, there will be winners and losers. Some retailers will do better than others depending on demand.”
High street brands began offering heavily discounted items as early as last week as they targeted last-minute spending sprees by shoppers. Stores including House of Fraser, Debenhams and Boots slashed products by up to 81 per cent on “panic Thursday”, coinciding with a huge 60 per cent increase in footfall.
Steve Richardson, UK & MEA director at ShopperTrak, explained: “Unlike the past two years, this year shoppers will only have Boxing Day to head in to stores to make the most of January sales, spend Christmas vouchers or return or exchange gifts, meaning we will see a rise in footfall of 6 per cent on the daily average.”
“The dynamics of Boxing Day have certainly shifted in the past few years – whilst it remains a key day for in-store shopping, it was once the day that ‘kicked off’ the traditional January sales period. However, the advent of Black Friday and extended levels of pre-Christmas discounting by retailers have evened out the demand and impetus for shoppers to rush into store to secure Boxing Day deals, as many will have made discounted purchases in the run up to Christmas.”
Marketing manager for intu Braehead, Christine Macdonald, said: “We expect our Boxing Day sales this year to be as popular as the turkey and all the trimmings at the Christmas dinner table. If previous years are anything to go by, the early birds out to bag the best of the bargains will be queuing up hours before we are officially due to open the centre at 8am.
“However, stores like Next will start trading even earlier at 6am and we’re likely to see the first cars arriving anytime between 4am and 5am.
“No doubt when the rest of the shops open, we’ll be very busy right up to closing at 7pm.”
Professor Joshua Bamfield, director of the Centre for Retail Research, said: “This may well be the busiest ever week before Christmas in terms of shopper numbers, and the biggest spending week before Christmas ever.”
Mintel director of retail research Richard Perks added: “More and more shoppers are leaving it until the last minute.”
Paul Lockstone, managing director at Barclaycard, said: “Last year, Black Friday overshadowed Boxing Day sales as many retailers struggled to maintain consumer interest in what has become a month-long discounting event.
“This year, however, value-seeking consumers appear to be more eager to buy cut-price items across both sales periods as they try to combat rising prices.”
The British Retail Consortium said it did not see any trend of a reduction in importance of the Boxing Day sales.
However, a survey carried out for Radio 4’s You and Yours by consumer analysts Savvy Marketing found 37 per cent expect to spend less this Boxing Day as a result of their spending on Black Friday. Catherine Shuttleworth, from Savvy Marketing, said: “The data shows that people spent more money this Black Friday than last year and people can’t spend that money twice so the Boxing Day sales will suffer.
“Shoppers expect things to be discounted because times are tough and family spending isn’t as flexible as it has been.”
Shopping on Christmas Day was also expected to hit a new record, with 1.5 million people set to have spent £105m in convenience stores and garages yesterday, according to experts.