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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 December 2005, 18:12 GMT
Retailers hail winter sales boost
Store in central London
Sales are still brisk despite poor weather across much of the UK
Retailers have had a brisk start to their winter sales, with some reporting shopping "madness" in their busiest trading day of the year.

About 2,000 people queued up at the Bluewater shopping mall in Kent from 0300 GMT, awaiting the opening of retail giant Next two hours later.

The number of people visiting the centre's 330 stores later swelled to about 160,000, a spokeswoman reported.

On Boxing Day, leading shopping centres saw 17% more visitors than in 2004.

Early morning queues

Retail analysts FootFall - who monitor retail activity in more than 200 shopping centres - said the increase was due to more stores being open, more promotional activity and the fact that Christmas fell at a weekend.

"This year, the quiet Christmas Eve seems to suggest that consumers treated Saturday and Sunday as their rest days and that the savvy shopper is now back out shopping with a vengeance," said its marketing manager Natasha Burton.

"This has given retailers a welcome boost and has hopefully set the tone for a prosperous sales period."

This is the day we all look for in terms of volume of business
Barry Turnbull
Metro Centre

Next launched its winter sale on Tuesday, prompting early morning queues across the country as consumers hunted for bargains.

A Bluewater spokesman said the interest in the Next sale there had been "amazing".

"People were queuing from very early this morning. We are expecting it to be our busiest day".

Brisk trading

Gateshead's Metro Centre said it had also expected its busiest day of the year, while stores in central London said trade was brisk despite bad weather.

Selfridges sale
The Selfridges sale on Boxing Day saw huge queues

Metro Centre general manager Barry Turnbull told BBC News: "We had some extremely good days running up to Christmas, but this is the day we all look for in terms of volume of business.

Marks & Spencer reported brisk business at its Marble Arch store in London, its largest outlet in the capital.

"It has been really, really busy. I don't remember seeing it like this," said a spokesman.

An estimated 11 million people are expected to go shopping during this year's sales, spending an average of 130 each.

Selfridges department store in London said its busy Boxing Day had capped the store's "best week ever", while about 80,000 shoppers poured into Glasgow's Buchanan Galleries on Monday.

Christmas relief

Retail analyst Robert Clarke told the BBC that clothing and furniture retailers seemed to be doing particularly well.

"Even retailers which weren't doing too well before Christmas are doing quite well now," he said.

Mr Clarke said he believed retailers had had a decent Christmas, after a slow start, and had not sacrificed profits at the expense of sales.

"Christmas was pretty late but it picked up in the last week. I think the stores will be heaving a sigh of relief."

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