Millions of bargain-hunters dived into Boxing Day sales and defied predictions amid cost-of-living crisis

Shoppers take to London's Oxford Street to explore the Boxing Day sales Where: London, United Kingdom When: 26 Dec 2022 Credit: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press/Cover Images **ONLY AVAILABLE FOR PUBLICATION IN THE UK**

MILLIONS of bargain-hunters dived into the Boxing Day sales yesterday, while others took a different kind of plunge — into freezing seas.

Retailers celebrated as shoppers defied predictions and hit the stores in droves, with numbers increasing nationally by more than 50 per cent over last year.

Retailers celebrated as shoppers defied predictions and hit the stores in droves – pictured Brits rushing for Selfridges in London

Numbers of shoppers increased nationally by more than 50 per cent over last year – pictured queues in Trafford Centre, Manchester

On high streets spending was up by 59.4 per cent and in shopping centres by 46.6 per cent – pictured bargain-hunters in Harrods, London

In London, footfall was more than double last year’s despite dire forecasts that train strikes and the cost-of-living crisis would spell disaster at the West End’s checkouts.

On high streets it was up by 59.4 per cent, in shopping centres by 46.6 per cent and in retail parks by 33.7 per cent.

The number of customers in central London was up by an astonishing 139.2 per cent.

And if it had not been for the crippling national rail strikes, the results could have been even better.

Meanwhile, hardy souls — many in fancy dress — shook off their Christmas hangovers with a traditional Boxing Day dip on the chilly coastlines of Britain, including in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Other charity events included a pram race in Windlesham, Surrey.

Diane Wehrle, of retail research group Springboard, said sunny weather and a post-Covid buzz led to a shockingly good day at the shops.

She said: “Retailers will be very optimistic after today. It proves that physical stores are still very important to shoppers.

‘Last hurrah’

“It’s the validation many retailers needed. Given an opportunity to have a day out shopping, people will do that.

“It gives businesses something solid to work from going into the next year, which will be tough and challenging.

Meanwhile other Brits attended charity events such as Windlesham pram race in Surrey

“Inflation and the cost-of-living crisis are overshadowing everything. Come January, many consumers will rein in their spending because things will get more expensive.

“But today demonstrates that when they are able to go shopping, they prefer to go in-store rather than online.”

She added: “The Boxing Day sales are a fantastic British tradition. This is the first proper Christmas since Covid and people wanted to make it great.

“Many saw it as a ‘last hurrah’ before the recession really starts to bite. Some may also be trying to outpace inflation — they know prices will rise in 2023, so it’s a good idea to buy things now before they get more expensive in a few months.

“It was also a lovely day for a lot of the UK, and that really helps retail. We see it very clearly in the footfall data — you have a bad weather day and people don’t want to go out.

“When it’s dry and sunny, it makes you want to be outside, so people make the effort.”

Ms Wehrle pointed out that Boxing Day was a Sunday last year, so trading hours were more restricted — but she said this year’s boost was still “significant and exciting”.

It is believed many people cut short Christmas breaks with their families to drive home yesterday or spent the day indoors to avoid travel chaos entirely. However, London was swamped with shoppers keen to snap up bargains at the West End’s famous department stores.

Sophie Beaker, 25, from Brighton, drove into a South London suburb and caught the tube to Oxford Street before queuing to get into Selfridges.

She said: “I’m very excited. The Boxing Day sales are a great tradition and I haven’t been able to take advantage of them for a few years.

“I’ve got a list of things I want to get and I’m determined to get the best deals.

“London is the best city in the world for shopping and I can’t wait to get stuck in. My credit card is burning a hole in my pocket!”

Jeanie Tandina, 33, of Romford, Essex, snapped up discounted clothing at Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, East London.

She said: “The sales are one of the best things about Christmas. I’ll be shopping every day between now and the New Year, searching for deals.”

John Lewis was closed yesterday but saw a rise in online sales.

A spokesman said: “Our sale is already off to a really strong start online, with demand up on last year, and kicks off in our branches from December 27.”

He added: “Whether they’re upgrading their homes or their wardrobes, cost-conscious customers are making the most of our great deals to get 2023 off on the right foot.” Meanwhile, M&S’s sale launched online on Christmas Eve and was in-store from today.

Harvir Dhillon, of the British Retail Consortium, said shoppers targeted fashion, entertainment and fitness products, ahead of their New Year’s resolutions. But she added: “However, due to the rising cost of living, consumers are generally spending more cautiously.”

Boxing Day footfall has still not returned to pre-pandemic levels, remaining 30.5 per cent lower than 2019.

Covid rules are thought to have affected shoppers last December, with restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The traditional Boxing day dip was however also on the minds of festive Brits in Southend

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