Bargain-hunters brave bad weather

Bargain-hunters are expected to brave the bad weather today to match Boxing Day spending in stores with another £2.2 billion of retail sales predicted across the UK.

Shoppers were out in force yesterday, with 13.3 million people estimated to have turned out for the start of the clearance sales, up 2 per cent on last year, according to the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

Around £2.2 billion was spent in stores yesterday – 5 per cent up on last year – and it predicted the same amount will be splashed out in the second day of the post-Christmas sales, with around 13.5 million people likely to hit the shops, reports The Telegraph.

But the heavy rain and gales could put off many shoppers, who are set to turn to the internet instead.

It is estimated that up to £370 million was spent online on Boxing Day, which could rise to £450 million today.

Joshua Bamfield, director of the CRR, said: “Depending on the weather, we might get 13.5 million people going shopping today, but we think the storms will mean people only go for a short time and could head home early.”

Many keen shoppers started queuing before dawn yesterday to ensure they were first in line when the shops opened, with international tourists spending big.

International shoppers from around the world boosted sales on British high streets yesterday as Qataris, Chinese and Russians hit the shops – spending four times as much as people from the UK.

Qataris spend the most on average – £1,714 per transaction – followed by those from the United Arab Emirates, who spend an average of £1,372.

The Chinese spend £1,367 on average per transaction but are more likely to return to the tills with more goods, according to shopping tourism company Global Blue.

Shoppers from Russia, Nigeria and India are also among the highest spenders, while the amount spent by Thai shoppers has risen 42 per cent year-on-year.

An increasing number of shoppers went online to begin searching for early bargains on Christmas Day, with CRR predicting £250 million was spent over the internet.

Department store group John Lewis said it saw a 19 per cent rise in Christmas Day sales – with a record 76 per cent of orders made on smartphones and tablet computers.

The group, which releases its five-week trading update on January 2, said sales in the week to December 21 were up 4.2 per cent on last year at £164.4 million – breaking the £160 million mark for the first time.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “The initial healthy news reinforces the suspicion that the clearance sales will be strong this year – at least early on – as still squeezed consumers will be extremely keen this year to take advantage of genuine bargains in the clearance sales.”

But he added: “Interest in the sales could fall away pretty quickly once the best of the bargains have gone. This would put pressure on retailers to cut prices even more, thereby further hurting their margins.”