Bargain hunters began queuing in the early hours across Yorkshire yesterday hoping to be among the first through the doors in the Boxing Day sales as retailers said initial figures showed shoppers had been out in force over Christmas.
Managers at the White Rose Centre in Leeds, Trinity Leeds and Sheffield’s Meadowhall said they had been overwhelmed, with hundreds of thousands of shoppers looking for cut-price goods.
Boxing Day shoppers were out in force at White Rose Shopping Centre with centre manager Dean Stratton, saying: “We had customers queuing from 10.30pm on Christmas Day for the start of the Next sale and also queues outside Debenhams, Boots, River Island, Zara, JD Sports and Currys Digital.
“Before 6am we had more than 3,000 people in the centre and we are expecting tens of thousands more before we close at 8pm.”
On December 23 the White Rose set a five year high for footfall when 72,000 people visited the centre.
Trinity Leeds, which opened in March, held its first Boxing Day sales with bargain hunters forming queues from the early hours looking for a bargain.
This followed a busy Christmas week, with footfall of more than 100,000 on December 23 and 70,000 on Christmas Eve – all of which have given a healthy boost to city centre visitor numbers in Leeds, which were up 3.8 per cent on the same week last year.
Kevin Duffy, the centre director at Trinity Leeds, said: “We are anticipating another very busy day and expect visitor numbers to exceed 100,000 once again.”
He added: “As well as coming to shop, many are enjoying something to eat or drink in the bars, restaurants and cafes.”
In the run up to Christmas, 131,000 meals were served in the centre, and 203,000 drinks consumed – of which 38,000 were cups of tea or coffee.
Boxing Day bargain hunters queued from as early as 2am ahead of stores opening their doors from 6am at Meadowhall.
Next, Marks & Spencer, River Island and TopShop were among some of the Centre’s retailers which opened for business and trading ahead of the start of the Sales.
By midday retailers, offering up to 75 per cent on items including handbags, designer clothes, shoes, jewellery, watches, perfume and electrical items, were reporting unprecedented Boxing Day sale figures.
Crowds of up to 160,000 from across the region are expected to descend upon the region’s largest shopping destination, taking this week’s footfall alone to over 500,000.
Darren Pearce, Meadowhall’s centre director said: “We are well prepared for what we feel will be one of the busiest days of the year - and possibly our busiest Boxing Day to date. Members of our team have been in as early as 2am to get ready, with Next, in keeping with tradition, the first to open their doors at 6am.
“We are expecting to see many shoppers spending their Christmas money on a range of products, with the high end luxury items including Mulberry handbags, Rolex watches and diamonds proving to be among the best sellers this year.”
Yesterday more than 1.4 million shoppers were expected to spend a total of more than £50m in London’s West End.
Harrods also kicked off its winter sale and offered mugs of hot chocolate, smoked salmon canapes and blankets to keep people warm in the queue, which was serenaded by a string quartet and a performance by street magician Dynamo.
Online sales started on Christmas Eve and millions are believed to have already snapped up goods from the comfort of their own homes.
Some 117 million visits to retail websites were estimated to have been made on Christmas Day in the UK.
Experian said that between December 24 and 26, some 45 million hours would be spent shopping online.
By the end of December, it is estimated there will have been three billion visits to retail websites in the UK, which will be the first time that figure has been reached in a single month.
James Murray, digital insight manager at the information services company, said: “Shopping habits are changing, with Christmas Day becoming a significant shopping day during the period.”