Bargain hunters out in force but figures indicate fewer shoppers this Boxing Day
Boxing Day bargain hunters were up early and out in force this morning, though figures suggest fewer Britons will go sales shopping this year than in the past.
A quarter of Britons (23%) will shop in the Boxing Day sales, down from 32% last year, according to Barclaycard.
The figures suggest the incentive to buy in the sales has weakened following widespread discounting, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that continued well into December.
But post-Christmas shoppers are still predicted to go on a £3.85 billion bargain hunt on Boxing Day, spending £2.95 billion on the high street and another £900 million online, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research.
Queues formed down the street at London department store Harrods, which opened its doors at 10am.
Butlers gave croissants, coffee and bacon sandwiches to those patiently waiting, and put on a dance show.
But the morning really kicked off when the store opened, as punters rushed in and crowds formed around the handbag displays for Gucci, Saint Laurent and Louis Vuitton.
Shay Walton emerged from the Knightsbridge store with a Michael Kors rucksack, after waiting in the queue from 8.50am.
When she arrived outside she headed straight to the back of the store, saying its queue attracts the fewest people.
"I come here every year," she said. She told others in the queue: "I'm an expert."
The 28-year-old rushed inside, grabbed the bag, paid, and left.
"It's a swarm, it's like ants in there. It's crazy," she said.
"It was too hot in there, I can't take it," she added.
Ms Walton paid £190 for the bag, and estimates she saved around £80. She said she was on her way to the Topshop sale and then to Marble Arch.
Harrods' managing director Michael Ward predicted that women's handbags and shoes would be the biggest sellers of the day.
"Women can never, quite rightly, get enough pairs of shoes," he said.
Mr Ward said it was shaping up to be a great day for them.
"I have never seen this many people on Boxing Day coming into the store," he said.
"2016 has been a great year for Harrods, we have seen a lot of overseas visitors."
Mr Ward said he thought the number of foreign visitors was rising because "London has become a much nicer place to visit".
But he added: "We have had a small advantage because of the pound".
The New West End Company was also expecting a bumper Boxing Day due to international shoppers, projecting a spend of £55 million.
Chief executive Jace Tyrrell said: "Boxing Day is shaping up to be a strong trading day for the West End once again, with average footfall up 8% year-on-year as of 11am, and a total of £55m turnover expected for the day."
He added: "This year Chinese visitors are expected to contribute significantly to trading, spending five times more than UK shoppers, with luxury handbags already noted to be selling fast."
Shoppers were also out in force in Liverpool, with queues outside stores including Lush, Pandora and Flannels.
Joan Swift said: "I came in to exchange some things in Marks and Spencer but was able to get some half price items in exchange.
"I've also bought a Karen Millen coat which was £180 and should have been £280."
Sharon Scully, from Birkenhead, said she had started shopping at about 10.30am.
She said: "I just wanted to look in the sales for some bargains. I bought a Swarovski crystal watch which should have been £300 for £150."
Student Nada Salem said she started her shopping at 9am.
She said: "It was quiet at first but the shops started to get busy by about 10am.
"I wanted to buy some gifts to take back to my family in Egypt."
By 1pm on Boxing Day more than 100,000 people had come through the doors of the two Westfield shopping centres in London, the company said.
Some of those hunting for a bargain queued from as early as 3am and the Next sale was out of stock by 7am.
Myf Ryan, the firm's chief marketing officer, said: "For many shoppers, the annual Boxing Day sales continue to be an important date in the diary. Many people will have received spending money or gift cards for Christmas, and use Boxing Day as an opportunity to treat themselves, as well as spending time with family and friends."
The company said £500,000 is spent every hour at their centres during the Christmas period, and said there had been growth in international visitors from Hong Kong and the US.