Page last updated at 19:06 GMT, Friday, 26 December 2008

Shoppers hit post-Christmas sales

Shoppers surged through the doors at Selfridges in London and Manchester

Thousands of shoppers across the UK snapped up bargains on the first day of the post-Christmas sales.

Queues built up outside stores hours before they opened as retailers affected by the credit crunch cut prices by up to 70%.

Around 500,000 bargain-hunters flocked to London's West End attracted to the discounted goods on offer.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it had been "a poor Christmas" for many retailers.

Around 15,000 people were in London's Westfield shopping centre - Europe's biggest inner-city shopping centre - as soon as it opened, a spokeswoman said.

'Busy week'

An estimated 100,000 sales shoppers were expected at Bluewater shopping centre in Kent - an increase of 10% from last year.

The centre's retail manager James Waugh said: "This is one of our busiest weeks of the year.

"People seem to be coming out for the day to enjoy themselves and judging from the people I've spoken to they are spending."

He said people were buying fashion items and treats for themselves.

In Cardiff, Manda Sharp, general manager of department store Howells, said the situation was similar and she expected record-breaking sales.

I'd rather stay at home with toothache than struggle through heaving masses of people just to save a few quid on something I probably don't need.
Steve Toft

In Glasgow, shoppers queued for two hours waiting for Braehead Shopping Centre to open its doors.

A spokeswoman for Selfridges said about 2,000 people waited outside the London store to grab the first bargains.

She said: "It was mental when they came into the store. I've never seen anything like it.

"People were running into the store and grabbing bags. Some women had four or five bags in their hands. Security had to get more people down to the store to help."

She added that it took some shoppers as much as an hour to queue for the tills.

Jace Tyrrell, of the New West End Company, which represents more than 600 traders in London's Bond Street, Oxford Street and Regent Street, said: "Are they mad? Well, it's very tempting when you've got designer handbags with 60% off."

And at the Trafford Centre in Manchester, staff said there were more shoppers than on the same day last year.

'Significant reductions'

Some High Street stores, including John Lewis and Marks & Spencer, began sales on their websites on Christmas Day.

John Lewis recorded its busiest ever online sales between 7pm and 8pm and said its Christmas Day traffic on its website was 12 times higher than last year.

London's Brent Cross Shopping Centre saw 30,000 people through its doors by midday

The centre's Norman Black, said more than 100 of its stores had started their sales.

Others, such as M&S, John Lewis and Fenwick would begin their sales on 27 December with "significant reductions", he added.

We'll see the full December figures in a few weeks, but they won't be pretty

Stephen Robertson
British Retail Consortium

Debenhams, which slashed prices by as much as 70% in what it described as its biggest-ever sale, opened its doors at 7am.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it had been "a poor Christmas" for retailers despite a last minute surge in spending and the apparent post-Christmas shopping spree.

The consortium said struggling customers have cut back and traded down to save money over the festive period.

Stephen Robertson, BRC director general, said: "We'll see the full December figures in a few weeks, but they won't be pretty.

"Discounts and promotions on a scale unprecedented for the run-up to Christmas, combined with weak sales, have put margins under severe pressure.

"The government must recognise that every extra tax and regulation has an impact on prices, under-pressure customers and retailers."

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers suggested that 82% of high street retailers offered either sales or promotions in the run up to Christmas.

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