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Christmas and Boxing Day shoppers defy British recession

Updated:2009-12-28 09:18:06

Despite the continuing recession, shoppers in Britain took to the Internet on Christmas Day and the High Street on Boxing Day in the search for bargains.

On Christmas Day all shops, banks and transport were shut, but the first shopping days after Christmas now see big discounts from high street retailers large and small, known as the Sales.

Up until the late 1990s virtually no high street chains were open on Boxing Day, December 26. After that retailers quickly seized the opportunity to be open for customers keen to find bargains.

This year supermarket chains like Tesco and Sainsbury's opened stores, but other famous chains like Marks & Spencer and Waitrose remained shut. Some household names, like Debenhams and Next, opened earlier than usual, at 8 a.m..

The Guardian newspaper reported on its website that in London, hundreds of people queued outside Selfridges' flagship store before the doors opened at 9 a.m.. When the doors opened shoppers rushed for bargains and stewards were used to control the crowd.

Richard Brasher, Tesco's commercial and trading director, said in a statement: "Boxing Day is a key time for customers looking to save on electrical items, homeware and clothing. We will cut prices on big brand homeware and electricals."

Online retail is an area which barely existed 10 years ago, but with the greater penetration of broadband and the increasing e-retail awareness of businesses, it is fast becoming an important source of income and is breaking down the old tradition that Christmas Day was a day when no shopping was done.

Internet retailing is driven by infrastructure and demand. According to the Office of National Statistics, at the end of 2008,the last period statistics are available for, 95.1 percent of all Internet connections were broadband, with 59.6 percent at speeds of more than 2 Mbps (megabytes per second).

Advertisers recognize this, and in 2008 the Internet took 23.2 percent of total ad spend, according to Ofcom, the communications industry regulator in Britain. This was beaten only by newspapers (28.4 percent) and TV (26.4 percent). The proportion of ad spend on the Internet in Britain was far higher than in any other major developed nation, with France and Germany next on 15.6 percent and15.3 percent respectively.

Robin Goad, research director at Experian Hitwise, said: "Last year Christmas Day was the seventh busiest online day of the year for online retailers, while Boxing Day was the busiest.

"Over the last few years the importance of these two days has been increasing, and we see no reason for it to be any different this Christmas. We have already seen that shoppers are willing to hold out longer for a bargain this year, with 'Cyber Monday' moving a week closer to Christmas.

"This behavior is likely to carry through to the post-Christmas period, with people logging on after Christmas lunch to find the best discounts before hitting the high street and shopping malls the following day (Boxing Day)."

Cyber Monday is the name given to the busiest Internet shopping day of the year, usually the first Monday in December as customers place orders for their Christmas presents in time for them to be delivered.

E-retail industry body IMRG estimated that on Christmas Day 4.3million shoppers went on-line - spending 120 million pounds (about191.5 million U.S. dollars), at an average of 27.90 pounds each.

The year-on-year growth in sales value for December is expected to be around 14 percent, with around 5.2 billion pounds (about 8.3billion U.S. dollars) expected to be spent online this month.

Christmas Day sales online are boosted by the presents given earlier in the day.

David Smith, director at IMRG, described what happens. He said: "A lot of purchases are for downloads be it films or computer games. If you have received a games console or computer for Christmas one of the first things you want to do is download something."

Brian McBride, managing director of Amazon.co.uk Ltd, said: "In2008, we saw a 150 percent increase in sales on Christmas Day compared to the previous year. One of the great things about the advent of Internet shopping is that you now have stores that are open 24/7, every single day of the year.

"We saw high volumes of gift certificates being redeemed on Christmas Day as well as a substantial number of MP3 tracks being purchased, with people presumably logging on to get content for the MP3 player that they had received as a gift earlier that day."

McBride said that when the figures for Christmas Day 2009 were known, he expected them to be even better.



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