U.K. Post-Holiday Shopping Trips Barely Rise Amid Online Boom

The number of Britons making shopping trips for post-holiday bargains barely increased on the day after Christmas as more people sought discounts online.

Visits to U.K. shops and malls gained just 0.6 percent on Dec. 26, compared with the same day last year, according to research company Experian Footfall. Westfield Group (WDC), the owner of the Stratford and London White City shopping centers, said Boxing Day shopper numbers met its expectations, though declined to say if that represented an increase on last year.

Post-holiday clearances are traditionally one of the busiest periods of the year for Britain’s retailers as shoppers seek discounts on everything from clothes to books. Many store owners began offering discounts online on Christmas Day this year. Britons made a record 107 million visits to retail websites on Dec. 25, up 86 percent on last year, Experian said.

Overall, holiday business for U.K. retailers was “not exceptional,” according to the British Retail Consortium, which forecasts that sales only increased modestly.

“Christmas hasn’t been a boom time,” BRC Director General Helen Dickinson said in a statement. “Customers bought only similar amounts to last year. Sales were hard-fought and often driven by discounts, so cutting into margins, though retailers worked hard to ensure they had the right products available, whether in store or online, and at the right prices.”

At Westfield’s London malls, the level of discounting “seems pretty similar to last year,” U.K. General Marketing Manager Myf Ryan said by phone. Next Plc (NXT) and Debenhams Plc (DEB) were among the most aggressive with price reductions of 50 percent to 70 percent on some items, Ryan said.

Westfield, which opened at 6 a.m. for the Next sale on Dec. 26, had “significant” lines of shoppers from about 1 a.m., Ryan said. Billionaire Philip Green’s Topshop and Topman outlets had queues outside for the first time, she said. The Westfield malls stayed open until 10 p.m., an hour later than last year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Shannon in London at sshannon4@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

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