Scramble for leftovers to begin

Congleton Guardian: Many popular chains will be slashing prices by 50% Many popular chains will be slashing prices by 50%

The turkey may have been eaten and the Queen's speech is over for another year - but for savvy shoppers, the highlight of Christmas begins tomorrow when shops fling open their doors for the Boxing Day sales.

Hundreds of thousands of people are set to hit the high street in search of a festive bargain, with many popular chains slashing prices by 50%.

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

To lure shoppers onto the streets, some stores are even laying on food and entertainment.

Harrods is kicking off its winter sale with the promise of mugs of hot chocolate, smoked salmon canapes and blankets to keep people warm in the queue, all while being serenaded by a string quartet and watching a performance by street magician Dynamo.

Department stores Selfridges and Liberty will be offering designer goods at a fraction of their usual price, while both Next and Marks & Spencer are boasting a discount of up to 50% on sale items.

If previous years are anything to go by, keen shoppers will start queuing up from the crack of dawn on Boxing Day to be first in line.

Some 117 million visits to retail websites are expected to have been made today in the UK however - with tomorrow's figure tipping 118 million.

Experian said that between December 24 and 26, some 45 million hours would have been 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.

The information services company said this proved consumer spending habits are changing, with more and more looking to spend money on Christmas Day itself.

James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian, 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 holiday season."

Bluewater in Kent is preparing for a continued uplift in footfall, predicting more than 800,000 people through their doors from Boxing Day to New Year's Eve.

With sales of Bluewater gift cards up by 10% and anecdotal evidence confirming that many will redeem them in the sales; coupled with many top brands such John Lewis, Next, Jack Wills and Tommy Hilfiger holding out until December 26 and 27 to go into full sale, all indicators are supporting a strong sales period.

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.

"The day will be dominated by bargain hunters taking advantage of offers from Bluewater's unique line up of leading UK and international brands, and families.

"Many will also make a day of it, enjoying a film and then finishing with ice-skating or a meal at one of our 50 restaurants."

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