David Lyon, marketing manager at intu Braehead, near Glasgow, said shoppers had began lining up outside Next from 5am yesterday and that within half an hour the queue stretched for almost 500 metres along the outside of the centre.
The scene at intu Braehead was good news for high street retailers who have seen profits slump as shoppers held on to their cash before Christmas.
But bad weather has deterred some Boxing Day bargain hunters, with footfall reportedly down 10 per cent in some high streets and shopping centres.
Retail experts Springboard said footfall in the period up to midday yesterday had seen the largest decline since 2010, with a drop of 10.6 per cent.
Mr Lyon said the centre’s unique selling point was that it could offer a host of activities for families as well as cafes and restaurants, something online shopping sites could not.
“People love coming here on Boxing Day not just for the sales, but to get out of the house and enjoy spending time with family and friends in our cafes, restaurants and leisure activities.
“It’s now a day out for many people and that’s something you don’t get shopping online.
“The first store to open at 6am was Next.
“Many stores opened at 8am, but there were so many people waiting at our entrances before that time, we opened the doors to let them in at 7:30am.
Shopper Pauline Kane from Livingston, West Lothian, who was in The Centre, the town’s indoor shopping mall which attracted a record footfall of 17 million shoppers this year, said: “The Centre is a great place to pick up a lot of bargains in the sales which I often hold off for and this year it’s really paid off.”
“You can shop for everything you need at this time of year including pressies and food to even taking some time out to enjoy a nice meal at one of the restaurants.
Professor Paul Freathy, of the Institute of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling, said: “Many shopping centres are reconfiguring themselves to survive.
“It is a competitive reaction and while it won’t stop online sales they are doing everything they can to fight back.
“Just having sales is not enough these days. Retailers need to get people to do the added value activities, and shopping centres with cinemas, climbing walls and restaurants are an ideal place to take children, especially during the Christmas holidays.”
In London Selfridges said by 2pm it was trading on a par with last year’s Boxing Day - its biggest ever trading day.
Shoppers in Greater Manchester began queuing outside the Trafford Centre Selfridges store at 4.30am.