Page last updated at 19:24 GMT, Sunday, 27 December 2009

Post-Christmas sales start at John Lewis and M&S shops

Outside John Lewis, Oxford Steet, 27 December 2009
John Lewis is hoping its stores can match the record rise in online sales

Bargain hunters continued to flood on to High Streets across Britain as two of the biggest retail chains launched their in-store post-Christmas sales.

John Lewis and Marks & Spencer began discounting online several days ago, but their stores stayed shut on Boxing Day unlike other High Street rivals.

Evidence suggests better December sales than in 2008, helped to a degree by the impending return of VAT to 17.5%.

Market data firm Experian said shopper numbers were up 18.5% on Boxing Day.

Popular products

John Lewis, regarded by some as a gauge of High Street spending in the UK, has said sales in the week to 19 December were more than £112m, up 15.5% on the same week last year.

It's been a totally different type of shopper this year
Karen Carr
Metro Centre, Gateshead

Its online sale, which started at 1800 GMT on Christmas Eve, had a record first three days with sales up 23% on last year.

John Lewis said pillows, towels, LCD televisions and laptops were among the most popular products.

Marks & Spencer said 2,500 people passed through the doors in the first 20 minutes of opening at its flagship store at Marble Arch in central London.

In Milton Keynes, 15,000 people queued for the 230-store Thecentre:mk to open at 1100 GMT. There were 1,000-strong queues outside John Lewis and M&S.

Centre director Robert Goodman said: "The early response to the post-Christmas sales has been tremendous.

"Initial reports are that whilst sales items are flying off the shelves, full-price merchandise is also selling surprisingly well."

Jace Tyrell, of the New West End Company representing stores on Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street in central London, said retailers were expecting 1.2 million shoppers to spend about £120m on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Europe's largest in-town shopping centre, Westfield in west London, saw a second busy day of sales.

General manager Emma Hindes said: "There are plenty of bags around the centre. We've had some very, very good reports from our retailers."

Brent Cross in north London said it was trading ahead of 2008, with sales levels in line with the record set on 27 December 2007.

The BBC's Joe Lynam said greater consumer confidence was the key factor in the apparent increase in sales.

But Experian analyst Anita Sharma Manan cautioned: "Retailers will have been elated at this year's performance, however it remains to be seen if the takings will be enough this year to see them through this difficult period to the next quarter."

Shoppers hurt

On Boxing Day, shoppers queued from as early as 0200 GMT outside some stores in the hope of snapping up a bargain.

Many shopping centres later reported an excellent turnout throughout the day.

The Bullring in Birmingham said about 200,000 people came through its doors on Boxing Day.

Crowds of bargain hunters rush into a department store on Boxing Day

More than 70% of parking spaces at Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent were full by 1100 GMT, while the Metro Centre in Gateshead said it had 20,000 more visitors than on Boxing Day last year.

Selfridges said it had enjoyed its best ever start to the post-Christmas sales with a 10% rise on last year, but at its store in Manchester four shoppers were hurt when a panel from a plastic ceiling light fell onto them.

Experts said the fact that Boxing Day fell on a Saturday gave sales across the UK an extra boost, with a further run on certain goods likely because of the VAT rise next week.

High-value items such as furniture, electrical items and white goods were expected to be most affected by the imminent change in sales tax.

The government cut the rate to 15% in December last year in a bid to boost the struggling UK economy.

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