High street retailers braced for surge in sales as millions flock to snap up bargain deals on tech, home and consumer goods
Boxing Day sales in Oxford Street, London, in 2014. The number of people who physically visit the shops in December has fallen in six of the last seven years. Photograph: Teri Pengilley for the Guardian
Millions of Britons are expected to flock to the shops on Boxing Day as they make the most of the honeymoon period before Brexit-related price hikes trickle down to the high street.
Some of the country’s biggest shopping centres are predicting bumper crowds as retailers slash the price of their winter clothing, TVs, laptops and furniture ranges.
Gordon McKinnon, operations director at Intu, which owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Metrocentre in Gateshead, said it expected more than 1m shoppers to visit its centres. “It is a huge shopping day because even though there is more discounting before Christmas there are still a lot of retailers, like Next, John Lewis and Selfridges that don’t. There’s a big push from Boxing Day - that’s the emotional bit. People want to go out and get their first fix of the sales.”
Retailers across the board have signalled the weakness of sterling will push up prices in 2017 as the cost of importing goods increases. Fashion retailer Next has said its clothing prices will rise by up to 5% while electrical goods retailers Dixons Carphone and AO have also said their suppliers want to charge more. Apple has pushed up the price of every computer in its range, while Microsoft and Dell have also signalled that price hikes are on the way.
Myf Ryan, the chief marketing officer at Westfeld UK and Europe, said Boxing Day was the busiest day of the Christmas trading period for its London malls in 2015. “Last year over 330,000 shoppers visited our two Westfield centres in London and this year we are expecting similar numbers,” she said. “During the Christmas period last year, shoppers spent over £500,000 per hour.”
Despite the pictures of crowded high streets at this time of year, Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says the overall number of people who physically visit the shops in December has declined in six of the last seven consecutive years - a worrying trend for retailers that helps explain why so many resort to offering pre-Christmas discounts.
Wehrle says shopper numbers were down by more than 2% in the first half of December but that the decline was less than the 3% drop recorded in 2015. “We are losing fewer people every year while online is growing but at a slower rate,” she said. “It’s not a boom year [for retailers] but it’s not a bad year either. Unlike Black Friday, Boxing Day is part of the holiday and culturally has a lot of significance.”
Retailers in London’s West End are expected to outperform the national picture as the devaluation of sterling since the Brexit vote draws high spending tourists to its high end department stores and luxury brands. Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of New West End Company - which represents retailers in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street - predicted today would be one of the district’s most successful single shopping days in recent years. Takings are expected to hit £55m.
“Boxing Day is becoming increasingly popular as a shopping day as customers become savvier, more price sensitive and better at researching purchases,” said Tyrell. “We expect a significantly higher number of Chinese tourists to come over specifically to bargain hunt.”
While the total number of transactions in the West End last week was actually down by more than 14% in the week before Christmas, the average “basket value” increased by 28%, highlighting the impact of the currency effect. The average value of a Chinese shopper’s purchase was nearly five times higher than that of a domestic shopper, at £1,073 versus £212, said Tyrell.
The pull of the Boxing day sales belies the 24 hour shopping trend ushered in by the internet.
With many retailers launching sales online on Christmas Eve, the shops never really close anymore, although this year there has been a push by several retailers, including Fat Face and jeweller Beaverbrooks to stay closed on Boxing Day. John Lewis has never opened the day after Christmas.
According to data compiled by the association for online retailers IMRG, an estimated £805m will have been spent on the virtual high street yesterday [25th December] as Britons immediately cashed in gift cards, received as presents, to download games and music and take advantage of early bird sales. It predicts close to £1bn will be spent online again today.
Boxing Day Deals
Currys PC World’s best offers include a 49–inch Samsung 4K Ultra HD TV for £649 - a £250 reduction - and GoPro Hero+ camcorders half price at £99.99.
Offers at Habitat include the Pedley shelving unit, half price at £250 and the Abu coffee table, down from £180 to £80.
For fans of designer fashion, Whistles has slashed the price of the Mia patchwork sheepskin coat by £600 to £1,200. Its Drew collarless leather biker jacket is also half price at £180.
At footwear chain Office there is £50 off UGGs with the Australian brand’s classic short boots selling for £105 while white Adidas Superstar 80s are £50 - a reduction of nearly 40%.
Kitchen outfitter Magnet is trumpeting a half price sale with the Fusion Champagne kitchen (based on 8 units with laminate worktops) down from £10,420 to £4,789.
Marks & Spencer’s homewares sale includes the Austen small corner sofa, which is half price at £999.50, while in clothing M&S Collection angular heel knee high boots are half price at £25.
The deals on website Very.co.uk include a £180 saving on a Christie storage bed frame, at £219, and more than 30% off a 14” HP laptop at £359.99.
Debenhams says it has slashed more than £130m off prices in its stores today with £75 knocked off a Butterfly by Matthew Williamson embroidered dress at £175 and bottles of Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely perfume going for half price at £17.
Eyecatching deals at Anthropologie include the statement floral burst chandelier, which at £2,179.95 is more than half price. There is also 30% off the Taunton reversible sheepskin gilet at £390.95.
Asos is also offering big discounts on men and womenswear: highlights include an Armani Jeans parka for £322, some 30% off, and a Sonia by Sonia Rykiel Sheet Stripe maxi dress reduced from £300 to £210.