LONDON — While plenty of British retailers started offering discounts early in the holiday season, it turns out that Boxing Day on Dec. 26 — traditionally the first day of the U.K.’s sales period — is still a draw for shoppers in central London.

This story first appeared in the December 29, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Department store Selfridges said it had its most successful Boxing Day opening in its history Friday, recording sales of more than 2 million pounds, or $3.1 million, across its bricks-and-mortar and online stores in the first hour of its winter sale, which started at 9 a.m. when the store opened.

The firm said shoppers began queuing at its Oxford Street store at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Day prior to the start of the sale, with 4,000 people in line when the doors opened. The first products sold in the sale included a Givenchy Pandora box bag, reduced to 602 pounds, or $936, from 1,205 pounds, or $1,873, and a Mary Katrantzou velvet sweater, reduced to 1,700 pounds, or $2,643, from 4,345 pounds, or $6,755. Selfridges’ Oxford Street unit saw 160,000 visitors on Boxing Day, while its online store recorded 700,000 visitors on Christmas Day, up 40 percent from the same day last year.

And according to London’s New West End Co., which represents retailers on Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street, tourists were driving the Boxing Day spending. Jace Tyrrell, deputy chief executive of the firm, said that on Friday morning “high-spending Chinese, Middle Eastern and Nigerian shoppers were out in force to be the first to snap up great offers across luxury goods,” he said, noting that international shoppers “spend on average four times more than a U.K. shopper.” Quoting figures from the tax-free shopping firm Global Blue, the New West End Co. said Chinese shoppers in the U.K. spend on average 1,379 pounds, or $2,143 per transaction, while consumers from Qatar and UAE spend 1,850 pounds, or $2,876, and 1,479 pounds, or $2,299, respectively, per transaction.

Across the U.K., the picture was more varied. According to figures from the U.K.’s Retail Traffic Index, compiled by Ipsos Retail Performance and reported in the Observer newspaper Sunday, retail traffic for Boxing Day in the U.K. was down 4.7 percent compared with the previous year.

But Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at IRP, told the paper that the figures were “pleasantly robust,” in light of the fact that many retailers start their sales online on Christmas Day. Among stores outside of London, the Bluewater mall in nearby Kent said it had its most successful year of sales since it opened in 1999, due to a surge of sales during the Christmas and Boxing Day period. Top-selling items included Mulberry handbags, luxury watches and premium beauty products, the mall said.

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