Huge Queues For Boxing Days Sales (PICTURES)

Shoppers flocked to the high streets in their thousands on Thursday as stores opened for the Boxing Day sales.

Some keen bargain-hunters started queuing before dawn to ensure they were first in line when the shops opened and some stores laid on food and entertainment to entertain those waiting in the cold.

Queues for the Boxing Day sales began to form on Christmas Day night

Hundreds of shoppers surrounded Selfridges, where queues snaked around the huge shopping emporium on London's Oxford Street.

There were separate queues for different brands and a significant security presence was in place to manage the crowd before doors opened at 9am.

Eyal Keden, 40, from Israel, is in London on holiday and had been queueing since 6.30am.

"It's amazing. We don't have this in Israel," the engineer said.

Mr Keden said he and his partner were on the lookout for bags and shoes and hoped to get a few bargains.

He said they did not come to London specifically for the sales, and that they were just "a bonus".

Also in the queue was Wang Tianyi, 21, a student from China who is studying in Liverpool, and his girlfriend Sun Yeting, also 21, who is on holiday visiting him.

The couple have been queuing since 4am, and were rather cold four-and-a-half hours later.

"We don't prepare very well," Mr Tianyi joked, adding: "I've heard it's crazy."

The couple said they hope to pick up lots of gifts for their family, and said they will go straight for the luxury goods.

"We will buy the things we like," Mr Tianyi said.

A spokeswoman for Selfridges said there were 3,500 people queueing outside the store, with the first people arriving at 11.30pm yesterday.

Online sales are up 110% on last year, she added.

Sue West, retail director at Selfridges, described Boxing Day as "a very big day for us, normally one of the biggest days of the year".

She said Selfridges was the first ever store to open its doors on Boxing Day.

Harrods also kicked off its winter sale and offered mugs of hot chocolate, smoked salmon canapes and blankets to keep people warm in the queue, which was serenaded by a string quartet and a performance by street magician Dynamo.

Department store Liberty offered designer goods at a fraction of their usual price, while both Next and Marks & Spencer boasted discounts of up to 50% on sale items.

Online sales started on Christmas Eve and millions are believed to have already snapped up goods from the comfort of their own homes.

Some 117 million visits to retail websites were estimated to have been made on Christmas day in the UK, with today's figure set to rise to more than 118 million.

Some retailers were hoping brisk business at the sales would make up for disappointing pre-Christmas takings.

Experian said that between 24 and 26 December, some 45 million hours would be spent shopping online.

By the end of December, it is estimated there will have been three billion visits to retail websites in the UK, which will be the first time that figure has been reached in a single month.

James Murray, digital insight manager at the information services company, said: "Christmas 2013 has consistently outperformed 2012 on virtually every single shopping day this December, with online visits from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day up from last year, a record-breaking Cyber Monday and the emergence of the even busier Middle Cyber Monday.

"Shopping habits are changing, with Christmas Day becoming a significant shopping day during the period.

"As a result, we anticipate a more sustained shopping pattern during this period, moving away from the traditional peaks and troughs usually evident during the holiday season."

Bluewater in Kent predicts more than 800,000 people will come through its doors between today and New Year's Eve.

Robert Goodman, Bluewater's general manager, said: "We are ready for a bumper Boxing Day this year. With the strongest retail offer to date, with 50 new brands launching with us this year, we are expecting visitor numbers to be on a par with Boxing Day last year.

"This will begin what is likely to be our busiest six days of the year."

Meanwhile, at Cabot Circus in Bristol shoppers began queuing at 6am for the chance to grab a bargain.

Stephanie Lacey, centre director, said: "Shoppers from across the South West braved the cold weather and came out in force at Cabot Circus today as the Boxing Day sales got under way.

"Queues began forming as early as 6am as shoppers made a beeline for stores including Next, Harvey Nichols and House of Fraser.

"We're expecting designer labels and brands to be very popular.

"We could see 100,000 shoppers at Cabot Circus today, and the pattern should continue for the next few days."

At St David's shopping centre in Cardiff, retailers were expecting 150,000 visitors, with sales tipped to reach £2 million.

Centre director Steven Madeley said: "The Boxing Day sales have got off to a flying start in Cardiff this morning, with thousands of Welsh shoppers descending on St David's in the hunt to bag the best sales bargains.

"Our department stores and high-end retailers are looking extremely busy as shoppers make a beeline for those luxury items and designer names at reduced prices.

"We are expecting up to 150,000 shoppers at St David's today and sales could reach £2 million.