26/12/2012 10:12 GMT

Boxing Day Sales Set New Record With Tourists Spending £50m in West End

Recession? What recession?

There was no sign of it on Britain's high streets and shopping centres as the Boxing Day sales set a new record and sent tills into meltdown.

But experts predicted many of the big spenders were not Brits, but tourists from China, the Gulf and Nigeria.

big sale

People walk past a sale sign on a store front, for the traditional Boxing Day sales on Oxford Street in London

Across the country, thousands of eager bargain hunters waited patiently for stores to throw open their doors with some queuing overnight.

And in London's West End shopping mecca, by 11am footfall was up 31.3% on Boxing Day last year with sales fuelled by rich tourists.

But the crowds could have been even greater in number, with many unable to get into London because of long tube delays after a drivers' strike.

Aslef, the train drivers' union, took the action in a long-running row over bank holiday pay.

Howard Collins, LU's chief operating officer, said: "Services on the Bakerloo, Central and Victoria lines are running to central London this morning serving the West End and busy shopping areas in west and east London, with very limited services on all other lines.

The UK average footfall was up by 21.6%.

Flagship store Selfridges in bustling Oxford Street reported its most successful first hour of trade ever with £1.5 million rattling through the tills.

Three thousand eager shoppers were waiting outside the shop at 7am and the first purchases were made within two minutes.

Forecasters said more than £50 million would be taken on the West End's famous shopping destinations of Bond Street, Regent Street and Oxford Street.

The huge surge in enthusiasm for a spending spree was attributed by tax-free shopping experts Global Blue to wealthy international shoppers drawn in by deals on premium beauty brands and designer fashion accessories.

Middle Eastern, Chinese and Nigerian shoppers were predicted to be the strongest growth nationalities for West End shopping.

Jace Tyrrell, director of the New West End Company which represents retailers, said: "This is one of the strongest trading days of the year in terms of sales, and retailers are pulling out all the stops to harness the coveted international spend, whilst also attracting shoppers from across the UK all hungry for a bargain.

"Chinese shoppers are the top spenders across all three streets, and it's key we offer an unrivalled welcome for international visitors.

"We have a team of welcome ambassadors, ready to greet visitors, who speak over 22 languages combined, including Mandarin."

Traditionally, tourist spend for December increases every year, with a massive 50% increase observed between 2009 and 2010, so a big rise in international spending is not shock today.

Richard Brown, of Global Blue, said: "Last year, Boxing Day helped fuel a 49% increase in the number of transactions year on year from these luxury focused international shoppers.

"The most popular purchases this year are expected to include designer handbags and fashion items, rarely discounted at home with an increasing appetite for premium beauty brands.

"With average spend per transaction for both Chinese and Middle Eastern shoppers at well over £1,000, their impact will be hugely valuable to this sales season."

big sale

Shoppers on London's Oxford Street when most shops started their winter sales.

Sue West, director of operations at Selfridges, said: "Selfridges was the first store on Oxford Street to launch the winter sale on Boxing Day.

"We are proud to have established this tradition and are delighted to offer our customers from around the world the very best sales buys across every category."

Scenes of shopping mayhem in London were repeated around the nation.

At Birmingham's Bullring Shopping Centre, thousands were ready and waiting from 12.20am for the off.

Tim Walley, Bullring general manager, said more than 200,000 would be bringing their business to the centre

with 150,000 more tomorrow.

Manchester's Trafford Centre enjoyed what is thought to be the biggest Boxing Day sale in its history with police drafted in to help manage the crowds.

Twenty thousand shoppers had arrived by 8am, said Gordon McKinnon, director of operations.

It was a similar story at Leicester's Highcross Shopping Centre, with shoppers queuing from 1.30am.

More than 90,000 shoppers were expected through the centre's doors, today, and more again tomorrow when John Lewis starts its post-Christmas sales.

In Bristol, hundreds of people queued from the early hours of this morning to be among the first through the doors of Cabot Circus' Next store.

Retailers slashed prices and began their early morning trading in a bid to entice shoppers in and compete with online rivals who have already begun offering heavy discounts.

The British Retail Consortium had described high-street spending as "acceptable but not exceptional" this festive period but today's business was expected to spike the figures.

Kent's Bluewater shopping centre saw about 120,000 visitors through its doors today with queues forming at 1am.

boxing day

Shoppers queue to enter Selfridges department store

In Cardiff, the city's St David's shopping centre said it was expecting 150,000 customers on top of what has already been a record-breaking few days in the Welsh capital.

Credit rating and analysts Experian said Yuletide online shopping had rocketed this year.

UK internet users made 84 million visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107 million visits on Christmas Day - up an astonishing 86% and 71% year on year.

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian, said: "Boxing Day has traditionally been the single biggest shopping day of the year online.

"This year we predicted that Boxing Day would see UK internet shoppers make 126 million visits to retail websites and in doing so set new records for online shopping.

Amazon's UK website said it had seen sales on Christmas Day increase by 263% over the last five years, partly due to the growth in home broadband and the popularity of tablets and smartphones.

The retailer is launching further offers including clearance offers and "lightning deals" for a limited time and quantity of stock.

According to, shoppers in the UK are set to spend a total of £2.9 billion in the Boxing Day sales.

A poll for the website found almost four million people (8%) planned to head to the high street today in addition to more than five million (10%) who will be searching online.