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Online sales near £900m as bargain hunters hit shops

Boxing Day sales appear on course to meet expectations, with retailers reporting early morning queues of thousands of eager shoppers yesterday, while initial online sales reports show strong growth on last year.

Luxury department stores Harrods and Selfridges saw bargain hunters start lining up outside before dawn on December 26, with a Selfridges spokeswoman confirming 3,500 were in the queue by the time the store opened at 9am.

According to retail data analyst Springboard, the number of people hitting the shops had risento rise 8% on last year. Initial figures showed that shopping centres claimed the greatest rise, up 22% on last year, while footfall to retail parks increased by 5.7%. High streets saw a more sluggish rise of 3.4% year-on-year.

Online figures are also expected to be up significantly, with several of the leading high street names launching Sales late on Christmas Eve or during Christmas Day, in a bid to capture early bird shoppers.

Online retail association IMRG estimates that £350m will have been spent on Christmas Day and £540m on Boxing Day.

John Lewis reported that mobile devices accounted for a “record-breaking” 76% of total hits to the site on Christmas Day, when total online sales were up 18% on last year.

Top sellers included the Mulberry Bayswater handbag, which was the fourth most-purchased clearance item.

Online director Mark Lewis said: “The tipping point has now passed and we expect mobile to be the way the majority of people shop online from now on. It will only grow from here and we will be working hard to ensure we meet our customers’ expectations, be that new technology or the seamless experience across multiple channels. Shopping is becoming much more of a social experience with people browsing, purchasing and sharing ideas with others using their mobile phones and tablets.”

However, experts have warned that the depth of discounts both in the run up and post-Christmas this year – at least 50% off in most cases – was putting particular pressure on profit margins at a time when retailers were looking more vulnerable than ever before.

“This has been a very disappointing Christmas for retailing in general and clothing in particular. Retailers have been seduced by the relentless upbeat talk of economic recovery – that no one has told the consumer about, “retail consultation Richard Hyman told the FT.

“For the consumer it will be one of the best post-Christmas periods in a long time,” he said. “But not for retailers.”

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