WHILE the internet savvy may have been snapping up bargains on their tablet computers at the Christmas Day breakfast table - the popularity of the Boxing Day sales was as strong as ever in Yorkshire.
Bargain hunters were queuing as early as 2am at Sheffield’s Meadowhall Shopping Centre on Saturday, with some stores opening as much as 75 per cent off.
The centre opened its doors at 6am, with the majority of stores open by 8am. More than 20,000 shoppers had descended on the centre by 9am.
“Boxing Day is one of the busiest days in the retail calendar and this year has not proved otherwise,” said centre director Darren Pearce.
“Meadowhall has seen a strong lead up to the festive period with growth throughout the Centre year on year, and a double digit growth on various categories including sportswear, specialist food, menswear, childrenswear and travel agents indicating an ever renewed consumer confidence across the region.”
Last year Meadowhall welcomed over 150,000 shoppers on Boxing Day, taking the total number of visitors during the 2014 Christmas week to in excess of 1 million.
Trinity Leeds will not have exact numbers of sales shoppers until next week, but general manager David Maddison said the weekend had been busy - despite the flooding in the city centre.
He said: “We had a very strong morning - Next in particular had a super sale, with queues outside.
“The flooding took a bit of an edge off, but it certainly looked brisk to me.
“I was in a couple of shops on Boxing Day trying to speak to the managers - but they were too busy to talk.”
The £260m Broadway centre in Bradford saw thousands of shoppers take advantage of its first Boxing Day sale, with many arriving at 6am. The centre opened in November after a decade of set backs. Footfall at The Broadway reached more than 850,000 between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.
Centre manager Anthony Foran said there was a “great buzz” at The Broadway, with customers keen to make the most of the sales and bag the best bargains.
He added: “We appreciate that consumers are being cautious with spending this year, and our retailers have worked hard to entice customers with tempting promotions. From walking around the centre, it is clear that Bradford shoppers are really making the most of the sales.
“We’ve enjoyed a great first Christmas and we are looking forward to starting 2016 off on a high at the centre.”
Across the UK, it was predicted that 22 million people hit the shops, spending as much as £3.74 billion - with wealthy Chinese tourists helping to fuel bumper takings in London.
Selfridges had its most successful-ever first hour of trade, taking more than £2m between 9am and 10am across its stores.
But there were reports of violent clashes at some stores, and shoppers fled “for their lives” after a fight believed to involve a machete erupted among youths at a shopping centre in Bromley, south London.
Elsewhere shoppers said stores were like a “madhouse” as bargain-hunters set about getting the best deals.
Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company, which represents retailers in Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street, said wealthy foreign tourists were fuelling bumper sales.
He told the Press Association: “We are in the West End, which is a huge international draw, so we see a lot of international shoppers here - 50 per cent of our shoppers are tourists, particularly from China, the Middle East and the US, and they probably spend about four or five times the amount of a UK shopper.”
Record numbers were expected to break away from Christmas Day festivities to spend “a significant proportion” online shopping.
According to data firm Experian and IMRG, £728m was expected to be spent, up 11 per cent on last year’s £658m. An even higher figure - £856m - was expected on Boxing Day.
Experian’s Nick Jones said: “Due to the rise of the use of personal connected devices, consumers can now shop for bargains on their mobile or tablet when they have a spare couple of minutes - even if that does mean sneaking away from the festivities and risking the wrath of family members.”