Shoppers hit the Boxing Day sales
Millions of shoppers hit the high street or logged on online in the annual Boxing Day sale spending spree.
Selfridges took more than £2 million in the first hour of opening its doors while the new West End Company, which covers the money-spinning shopping district of Bond Street , Oxford Street and Regent Street, said that both local and international shoppers would spend over £50 million during the day.
A £1,205 Givenchy Pandora box bag reduced to £602 was the first item to be bought at Selfridges' flagship London store where bargain hunters had been queueing since 10.30pm on Christmas Day.
The store, which deals with up to 250,000 customers in a week, expects 120,000 people to go through its doors today.
Crowds of up to 150,000 descended on Sheffield's Meadowhall Centre keen to snap up discounts of up to 70% on items including designer clothes, lingerie, handbags, watches, jewellery and electrical goods - with one sports retailer offering up to 90% off.
Meadowhall's centre director Darren Pearce described it as "possibly our busiest Boxing Day to date", adding : "Many of our team have been working since 2am to get ready for the influx of visitors this morning, with Next leading the way to be the first to open their doors at 6am."
Managers of the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent are expecting the bargain hunters who started to queue at 4am to help the centre hit £2 million from items bought with gift cards for the Christmas period after a 15% rise on last year.
Top sellers have included Mulberry handbags, Russell & Bromley leather boots, Children's clothing, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games consoles and GoPro cameras.
Bluewater general manager Robert Goodman noted that shoppers had taken a "calm and collected" approach to their Boxing Day spending and were using Click and Collect to pre-plan their bargain purchases.
Michaela Moore, general manager of Birmingham's Bullring shopping centre, said they had prepared to see "in the region of 200,000 customers" pass through the doors today and "in excess of 170,000 customers" tomorrow.
A spokesman said that more than 1,500 customers queued on St Martin's Walk into St Martin's Square for the start of the Next Boxing Day sale and shoppers began queuing outside Selfridges at 2.30am.
Bristol shoppers were also out in force at Cabot Circus, where centre director Stephanie Lacey predicted that "up to 100,000" bargain hunters were expected to pop by.
She said: "Since Black Friday, Cabot Circus has been very busy - it's been a strong Christmas shopping season for us.
"Customers are making the most of the Boxing Day sales and taking advantage of the best bargains."
Managers of St David's shopping centre in Cardiff estimated that more than £2 million would be spent in the post-Christmas sales across its 180 stores.
John Lewis predicted that its "mobile Christmas" is here to stay as shoppers snapped up deals on their mobile and tablet devices during Christmas Day.
It accounted for 72% of traffic to johnlewis.com throughout Christmas Day and it was the store's "biggest-ever Christmas Day for orders".
It also noted strong sales in the first hour of its online clearance, which began on Christmas Eve at 5pm.
Interest in shopping dipped between 1pm and 4pm on Christmas Day as people sat down to enjoy Christmas dinner but sales then peaked at 9-10pm as customers logged on while watching the much-anticipated Downton Abbey Christmas special.
Steven Madeley, centre director at St David's, said: "Black Friday saw Christmas start with a real bang this year and we're delighted that St David's has been consistently busy throughout December.
"Unlike the weeks ahead of Christmas where the focus is on buying for others, Boxing Day provides a real opportunity for shoppers to treat themselves."
Despite the positive outlook from shopkeepers, retail analyst Springboard suggested the impact of Black Friday, early December discounting and the improved convenience of online shopping this year means there has been a dwindling appeal to the Boxing Day sales.
Diane Wehrle, retail insights director at Springboard, said: "There have been reports of adverse weather conditions which could have kept shoppers away but we cannot ignore early online sales as a significant driving force in the dwindling appeal of Boxing Day.
"Instead of carefully controlling sales to drive larger profit margins, retailers are seeking to secure their market-share through early discounting.
"Black Friday this year suggests that these sales will only grow in significance and so our traditional Boxing Day sales may become a thing of the past.
"To win on this day, smaller retailers should consider the example of London's flagship stores and stagger promotional merchandise - leaving the discounting of the most desirable items until the 26th of December.
"It is a worrying time for retailers - especially smaller, independent stores.
"Christmas used to be a trading period which could be relied upon but it has now become a battleground for consumers, with price and convenience being the order of the day.
"Physical retailers have to offer something extra in areas within which they can compete.
"It is in customer experience where they can encourage shoppers - an opportunity for children to meet Father Christmas in person or late night opening and mince pies for the local community is something online will never deliver."