Bargain hunters surf first, then shop

Christmas trading has sparkled into life on the high street with retailers reporting frantic Sunday shopping after a better-than expected Boxing Day, with suggestions that shoppers had been browsing for bargains in their pyjamas before heading to the shops.

Some analysts had feared a string of sales running from Black Friday through to Christmas would lessen the appeal of discounts after the festive period. However, crowds started queuing from 1am on Saturday to get the best deals.

Selfridges, the luxury department store, recorded the most profitable hour in its 100-year history, taking just over £2 million by 10am — a 2 per cent rise on its previous highest takings. Intu, which runs 18 shopping centres, said that it had seen double-digit growth in the number of shoppers out on Boxing Day compared to last year.

The high street was helped by foreign shoppers and the unseasonably mild weather, with sales expected to reach £3.5 billion.

It seemed at first that Britain’s bargain hunters were a little slow off the mark with the high streets only fractionally busier than last year on Boxing Day morning, before they came to life after midday, according to Springboard, the retail analysts.

Diane Wehrle, the marketing and insights director, said: “Traditionally the first few hours of the day are the busiest — this year the high footfall shifted to later on . . . as shoppers apparently were using their first few hours to search for the best bargains online and then venture into the stores to buy.”

During December as a whole, high streets have been quieter than a year ago, according to Springboard, however footfall was up 11.7 per cent on Boxing Day, compared with last year. Retailers in London’s West End expect to take £100 million over the three-day weekend.