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Number of shoppers at Boxing Day sales down by 6.7%

The number of shoppers venturing out to the Boxing Day sales fell 6.7% on last year in another challenging period for struggling UK retailers, figures show.

Hardware and technology stores particularly struggled, mainly because buyers do not need to inspect the products in person, according to the UK Retail Traffic Index figures published by Ipsos Retail Performance.

However the leisure and health and beauty sectors bucked the trend with year-on-year growth in stores, and clothing and footwear shops only saw a relatively small drop in footfall of 3.2%.

Ipsos said the build-up of store footfall in the run-in to Christmas was slow, and the last-minute rush to the shops was not as intense as retailers hoped for.

But Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, said: "Boxing Day remains a genuine and important event in the retail year.

"Finite stockpiles mean that shoppers have to be quick off the mark to secure the best bargains, creating a thrill that is sufficient for many to brave queuing up before opening time."

Barclaycard had predicted almost a quarter of Britons (23%) would shop in the Boxing Day sales, down from 32% last year.

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 were still predicted to go on a £3.85 billion bargain hunt on Boxing Day, spending £2.95 billion on the high street and £900 million online, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research.

The New West End Company was also expecting a bumper Boxing Day due to international shoppers, projecting a spend of £55 million.

Myf Ryan, chief marketing officer at Westfield shopping centres, said Boxing Day sales continued to be an important date in the diary.

The company said shoppers spent £500,000 every hour at its centres during the Christmas period, and there had been growth in visitors from Hong Kong and the US.

Retail analysts ShopperTrak said Boxing Day footfall fell 14% year-on-year, and suggested this was due to Christmas falling on a Sunday, creating an extra bank holiday, as well as record levels of pre-Christmas discounting.

ShopperTrak UK director Steve Richardson said: "While Boxing Day is usually a peak day for in-store traffic, this year footfall dropped by 14% year-on-year, as consumers made the most of having the extra bank holiday off.

"There was also another dynamic impacting Boxing Day footfall, namely the unprecedented levels of extended pre-Christmas discounting by retailers, which may have resulted in sales 'fatigue' amongst shoppers.

"While Boxing Day traditionally kicks off the January sales in earnest, with so much discounting throughout December, this year saw much less impetus on customers to take to the High Street on Boxing Day itself in order to bag a bargain."

Westfield centres saw shoppers queuing from 2am on Boxing Day, and more than 300,000 people had visited by the time stores closed, Ms Ryan said.

A shopper from Hammersmith paid £75,000 for a new Bentley, making it the day's biggest purchase.

Other extravagant buys over the Christmas period included a £140,000 diamond ring and a £15,000 transaction by a Middle Eastern princess at Gucci.

Ms Ryan said international numbers of shoppers had increased across Westfield's centres.

She said: "Tourist spend at Westfield London in November was up 14% year-on-year and luxury spend up 21%. The big international luxury spenders were China, up 44%, the US, up 99%, and Hong Kong, up 191%.

"We expect to see high growth again during the busy Christmas and sales shopping period."

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