Millions of Britons are expected to flock to the shops on Boxing Day as they make the most of the honeymoon period before Brexit-related price hikes trickle down to the high street.
Some of the country’s biggest shopping centres are predicting bumper crowds as retailers slash the price of their winter clothing, TVs, laptops and furniture ranges.
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Gordon McKinnon, operations director at Intu, which owns Manchester’s Trafford Centre and the Metrocentre in Gateshead, said it expected more than 1m shoppers to visit its centres. “It is a huge shopping day because even though there is more discounting before Christmas there are still a lot of retailers, like Next, John Lewis and Selfridges that don’t. There’s a big push from Boxing Day – that’s the emotional bit. People want to go out and get their first fix of the sales.”
Retailers across the board have signalled the weakness of sterling will push up prices in 2017 as the cost of importing goods increases. Fashion retailer Next has said its clothing prices will rise by up to 5% while electrical goods retailers Dixons Carphone and AO have also said their suppliers want to charge more. Apple has pushed up the price of every computer in its range, while Microsoft and Dell have also signalled that price hikes are on the way.
Myf Ryan, the chief marketing officer at Westfeld UK and Europe, said Boxing Day was the busiest day of the Christmas trading period for its London malls in 2015. “Last year over 330,000 shoppers visited our two Westfield centres in London and this year we are expecting similar numbers,” she said. “During the Christmas period last year, shoppers spent over £500,000 per hour.”
Despite the pictures of crowded high streets at this time of year, Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says the overall number of people who physically visit the shops in December has declined in six of the last seven consecutive years – a worrying trend for retailers that helps explain why so many resort to offering pre-Christmas discounts.
Wehrle says shopper numbers were down by more than 2% in the first half of December but that the decline was less than the 3% drop recorded in 2015. “We are losing fewer people every year while online is growing but at a slower rate,” she said. “It’s not a boom year