Sat, Dec 28, 2013 - Page 15 News List

UK shopper numbers fall flat after Boxing Day rush

Reuters, LONDON

Shoppers scramble to pick up bargains in central London’s Selfridges department store on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

After an initial rush to British retail stores for the Boxing Day sales on Thursday, only 0.5 percent more shoppers showed up than last year, final figures from retail data company Springboard showed.

Overall, 9 percent fewer bargain-hunters visited traditional town center shops, offset by a 10 percent increase at both shopping centers and retail parks as of 4pm.

Early data had shown a rise of 8 percent across the country after many queued early in the morning for bargains, but numbers dropped off later for high street shops, Springboard said.

Some stores opened at 6am in London’s main shopping district in the West End and Oxford Street, where over a million people were expected to turn out, according to retailers.

Many shops started Britain’s traditional “January sales” online on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to meet increasing demand for earlier and deeper discounting.

Britain’s economy has been growing robustly and unemployment has fallen steadily but stagnating wages and rising utility bills are still squeezing living standards.

Department store John Lewis reported record sales for the week before Christmas on Thursday and said that for the first time it expected most British shoppers to use smartphones rather than desktop computers to make online purchases.

It said its sales in the week to Dec. 21 were up 4.2 percent on last year at £164.4 million (US$270 million), surpassing the £160 million mark for the first time.

The department store is to release its five-week trading update on Thursday.

The retailer also said that on Christmas Day, three in four shoppers used their smartphones or tablets rather than traditional desktops to shop on its site.

“The tipping point has now passed and we expect mobile to be the way the majority of people shop online from now on,” said Mark Lewis, online director at John Lewis.

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