RETAILERS are on track for bumper Boxing Day sales, experts have claimed, as online shopping at major retailers on Christmas Day smashed last year’s sales and shoppers queued outside Scottish stores from the early hours of yesterday in a bid to grab the best bargains.
Stores are offering discounts at levels not seen since 2008, when the country was in the grip of recession, analysts said, while department stores and shopping centres reported queues from as early as 4:30am yesterday.
However, high levels of discounting could mean many retailers take a financial hit due to squeezed margins – despite unprecedented numbers of shoppers looking to spend.
John Lewis said that online orders were up 19 per cent year-on-year on Christmas Day, following an increase of 16 per cent compared to the previous year in the first hour of its clearance sale on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people queued outside Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh from 8am ahead of the luxury department store’s 10am opening yesterday.
At Braehead shopping centre near Glasgow, general manager Gary Turnbull said extra staff had been drafted in to marshal shoppers, who had turned up long before dawn.
He said: “People were queuing up as early as 4:30am waiting for the first stores – Next, Marks and Spencer, JD Sports and Sports
Direct – to open at 6am.”
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According to data firm Experian and online retailing trade association IMRG, internet shoppers were expected to spend £748 million on Boxing Day, or £519,000 a minute.
Online retailers were set to receive more than 167 million visits from British bargain hunters on Boxing Day – up 29 per cent from last year.
“This year has seen record-breaking online shopping rates, particularly on Black Friday, which saw an astronomical £810m in estimated spend due to the massive resources put behind promotions by a wide range of retailers,” Experian’s Giles Longhurst said.
Howard Archer, chief UK economist at Global Insight, said: “The initial healthy news reinforces suspicion that the clearance sales will be strong this year, as consumers look to take advantage of genuine bargains.”
He said low earnings growth meant people were likely to look out for bargains in the post-Christmas sales.
“The extended squeeze on purchasing power that has come from prolonged low earnings growth is undoubtedly galvanizing interest this year,” he said. “It will be interesting to see to what extent the discounting and promotions have squeezed retailers’ margins.”
Jason Gordon, consumer business partner at Deloitte, claimed the scale of discounting would reach levels not seen since 2008, when the banking sector began to crumble and plummeting consumer confidence meant retailers were forced to slash prices to clear excess stock.
Mr Gordon said: “In clothing, most retailers have not got on top of their stock, given the unseasonably warm weather.
“If merchandise needs clearing, it needs clearing. Some bold decisions will have been made by retailers on the level of markdown rather than have reduced stock hanging around in stores into February.”
John Coulter, UK retail director at ao.com, said: “We expect this year’s Boxing Day sale to be highly competitive online, as shoppers try to avoid the mayhem seen on the high street on Black
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