Boxing Day, traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year, saw a significant increase in footfall in central London compared to last year, as shoppers flocked to the high streets to hunt for deals and discounts. According to retail expert Springboard, footfall in central London was up by 139.2% compared to 2022, when the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was spreading and some restrictions were still in place. This was the sharpest rise for any area in the UK, and should cheer up retailers who have been struggling with the impact of the pandemic on consumer spending.
However, the number of shoppers in central London was still 67% lower than in 2019, before the pandemic hit. This suggests that many people are still wary of crowded places, or prefer to shop online or in local stores. The cost of living crisis, driven by inflation and energy prices, may also have deterred some shoppers from splashing out on Boxing Day. Springboard said that the average person was expected to spend £18 less this year, and part with £229 in the post-Christmas sales.
Online and Black Friday sales pose a challenge for Boxing Day
Boxing Day sales have also faced competition from online retailers and Black Friday events, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. Online sales have grown by 11.8% in the past year, and now account for 30.6% of all retail sales in the UK. Black Friday, which falls on the last Friday of November, has also attracted more shoppers with its massive discounts and promotions. According to Barclaycard, Black Friday spending rose by 16.3% this year, reaching a record high of £8.9 billion.
Some retailers have responded to these challenges by extending their Boxing Day sales to last for several weeks, or by offering exclusive deals and incentives for in-store shoppers. For example, Selfridges, one of the most popular destinations for Boxing Day shoppers, offered up to 70% off on selected items, and gave away free gifts and vouchers to the first 100 customers. Harrods, another iconic department store, also offered discounts of up to 50% off on fashion, beauty, and homeware, and had a live DJ and dancers to entertain the crowds.
Boxing Day sales still matter for the retail industry
Despite the changing shopping habits and the economic uncertainty, Boxing Day sales still matter for the retail industry, which employs over three million people in the UK. Boxing Day sales generate an estimated £4.8 billion in revenue for retailers, and help them clear their excess stock and make room for new products. Boxing Day sales also attract tourists and visitors from abroad, who spend more than domestic shoppers. According to VisitBritain, overseas visitors spent £28.4 billion in the UK in 2019, and shopping was one of their main activities.
Boxing Day sales are also a tradition and a cultural phenomenon for many Britons, who enjoy the thrill of finding a bargain and spending time with their families and friends. Some shoppers even camp outside the stores overnight, or queue for hours, to be the first ones to enter the shops and grab the best deals. For many, Boxing Day sales are a way of celebrating the festive season and having fun after a challenging year.