Scottish high street sales outstrip UK

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Scotland’s stores enjoyed a Boxing Day retail boost, with the number of shoppers rising significantly compared with the rest of the UK.

Initial footfall data showed an overall increase of 4.5 per cent on last year – three times the rise south of the Border – as people turned out in their thousands to make major savings on clothes, footwear, toys and cosmetics.

Hundreds of bargain hunters flood into Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh for the Boxing Day Sales. Picture: Hemedia

Hundreds of bargain hunters flood into Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh for the Boxing Day Sales. Picture: Hemedia

High streets saw the greatest increase – up 7.3 per cent in Scotland, against a 7 per cent slump in the UK overall – according to analyst Springboard. Shopping centres and retail parks saw modest rises.

Experts said winter attractions and parking incentives in cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow were among the reasons for the strong performance, along with fewer “mega-malls” than in England.

The Centre for Retail Research estimated that 850,000 Scottish shoppers spent £232 million yesterday and that today will see 1.1m shoppers defy the forecast heavy rain to fork out £253m, in what could be Scotland’s biggest-spending day ever.

It follows reports that £350m was spent online in the UK on Christmas Day.

Shoppers in Edinburgh arrive early fior Next's Boxing Day sale. Picture: Julie Bull

Shoppers in Edinburgh arrive early fior Next's Boxing Day sale. Picture: Julie Bull

The Boxing Day sales began with shoppers queuing outside Next stores before their 6am opening time, queueing from 3am at Silverburn in Glasgow and 4:30am in Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Silverburn enjoyed a 20 per cent year-on-year boost in footfall in the week leading up to Christmas, while Union Square in Aberdeen had a 9 per cent increase in the three days before Christmas. Some customers claimed there had been physical fights in some stores over sales items.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “The high street in Scotland has been much stronger than in England this year, and that’s been the case judging from these initial figures from Boxing Day.

“The biggest winner was the high street itself. If you compare that to the UK overall, where high streets in towns and cities were down 7 per cent, but shopping centres and retail parks are seeing 10 and 11 per cent rises, that’s a big difference. Scotland doesn’t have mega-malls like Lakeside [in Essex] and Bluewater [in Kent], and you’re seeing the benefit.”

Ms Wehrle said the winter festivals in Edinburgh and Glasgow had helped to draw families into city centres. She added: “One trend we have noticed is people coming into towns in the evening for leisure rather than shopping, and it’s impressive that Glasgow and Edinburgh, for example, can put on attractions to make that happen.”

Retail centres reported a big boost in the number of shoppers.

George Reader, deputy manager at Silverburn in Glasgow, said: “It’s been nothing short of incredible – we’ve had people arriving at the centre since just before 3am, which we’ve never seen before.

“Normally, the Boxing Day sales are associated with clothes, but people have been buying homeware, gadgets, phones … everything. People are still coming in and buying toys.”

Gary Turnbull, general manager of Glasgow’s Braehead mall, said: “The early birds were out again this year at the crack of dawn. Some people had even brought along folding camping chairs to sit on while they were queuing and had flasks of tea and coffee to keep them going.”

He added: “By late morning the indications were that we were going to have a record-breaking Boxing Day.”

Union Square, the Bon-Accord centre in Aberdeen, East Kilbride Shopping Centre, Overgate in Dundee, The Centre in Livingston and Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow all reported big turnouts.

Debenhams says its sale will be the largest to date. Its biggest-selling product yesterday was Paul Smith London for Men 30ml eau de toilette, at £11, down from £30. Tigerlily dresses and the Lego Ninjago Raider also sold well.

John Lewis, often seen as the bellweather of the British high street, launches its sale this morning. It said sales in the week to 21 December were up 4.2 per cent on last year at £164.4m, surpassing the £160m mark for the first time.

In London, Selfridges in Oxford Street had 3,500 shoppers, many of them from China.

Experts at Global Blue tax-free shopping said visitors from Qatar, on average, spent the most per transaction (£1,714), followed by those from the United Arab Emirates (£1,372), but Chinese shoppers were the biggest spenders overall.