The traditional major shopping day where shoppers snap up leftover retail stock at rock bottom prices has recent times has faced competition from the pre-Christmas sales of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
But, sales such as the now iconic Next price drop succeeded in drawing people into town with customers queuing outside from the early hours of the morning for the 6am opening.
Shopping centres and high street retailers also reported people waiting with flasks of hot drinks from the early hours as stores such as Marks and Spencer and River Island knocked down prices.
And Zara – one of the few stores who stick to the traditional Boxing day sale launch – was rammed with customers waiting over 20 minutes to be served.
Some retailers slashed price tags by as much as 70 per cent, with stores swapping their festive windows for huge signs promising hefty discounts.
However, Chris Daly, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said that quiet high streets confirm that the days of setting the alarm to be first in line for the Boxing Day sales are long gone. He added: “Low footfall figures represent the final chapter in the tale of an exceptionally bleak year for traditional retail, when even high street giants considered ‘too big to fail’ stumbled.”
Shoppers who did make it to the rattling sales racks reported mixed results. Friends from Midlothian had travelled in to Princes Street to burn their Christmas cash.
“I spend money on stuff that isn’t even in the sales.” Skye Baigan said. “I just like to come in and spend my Christmas money quick.” But Steven Brown said he would prefer to stay at home and shop. “It’s good to get out and enjoy spending some money but I would rather do my shopping online – it’s less busy and less of a nightmare.”
Neil Robertson, who lives in Cheshire, said shopping on Boxing Day in Edinburgh was the busiest he’d ever seen it. “I don’t normally do it on the 26th but I thought why not – I kind of regret it now because it was a very stressful experience. I’ve never seen it that busy before – I’ve done Boxing Day shopping in Manchester and Liverpool and this was by far the busiest I’ve seen it. I’m not sure I would do it again.”
And the chairman of Old Town Community Council, Sam Piacentini, who also owns a coffee kiosk on Princes Street said it appeared the Christmas market, often a draw for tourists and locals to the centre of town, had lost some of its appeal and therefore brought less people in to the city centre to spend money. “Small businesses and independently owned shops don’t tend to benefit from the market anymore,” he added.
High street retailers have been battling higher costs, low consumer confidence as shoppers rein in spending amid Brexit uncertainty and people increasingly shop online rather than visit bricks-and-mortar stores. It has also been a torrid year for retailers with notable high street names Marks & Spencer and Debenhams announcing plans to shutter stores, while Superdry, Carpetright and Card Factory issued profit warnings.