U.K. Shoppers Brave Storms for Bargains on Record Sales Day

U.K. shoppers are braving storms and floods to spend record amounts in post-Christmas clearance events, providing some relief to retailers after a difficult lead-up to the holiday.

The number of people visiting Britain’s stores today will be 20 percent higher than yesterday, according to Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance. Shopper numbers on Dec. 26 were up 1.1 percent compared with the same day last year, Denison said, while Experian estimated the increase at 1.4 percent.

Most clothing retailers are offering discounts of at least 50 percent to shift surplus stock after Britons left their Christmas shopping late with the aim of getting a bargain. Some, including Marks & Spencer Group Plc, began cutting prices before the holiday in order to get shoppers into the stores.

Yesterday’s increase in customer numbers was driven by “significant discounting many retailers applied to many already discounted lines,” Experian said in a statement.

Britons will spend about 2.3 billion pounds ($3.8 billion) on discounted clothes, electronics and accessories in stores today, making it a record day, said Joshua Bamfield, director at the Centre of Retail Research in Nottingham. An additional 400 million pounds will be spent online, he said.

Bargain hunters started queuing before dawn yesterday outside department stores on London’s Oxford Street. As many as 3,500 people were waiting for Selfridges to open, according to Sky News. Consumers are feeling more secure in the outlook for the economy and employment, and are being drawn in by deeper discounts than in previous years, according to Denison.

‘More Secure’

“The main factor here is that many people feel more secure in their employment and although they haven’t noticed any direct change to the amount of money in their pockets yet, they feel a little more ready to spend a bit more, especially on high-ticket items that they have postponed purchasing for a year or more,” Denison said. “The discounts of up to 75 percent certainly make tempting eye candy.”

Dixons Retail Plc, the owner of the Currys and PC World chains, had its biggest sales day ever yesterday, Chief Executive Officer Sebastian James said on his Twitter account.

While stores should brace for a slump in January as shoppers pay off their credit-card bills, 2014 will still be “a decent year for retailers” with sales growth of 2.1 percent to 2.4 percent, Bamfield predicted. That would make it the best year since 2007, he said.

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