Dec 27, 2021
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Boxing Day sales fall flat as cautious Britons stay home

Dec 27, 2021

What used to be one of the busiest physical shopping days of the year has fallen flat in 2021 as fears over the latest coronavirus variant and other issues kept shoppers at home.

Picture: Nigel Taylor

Some chain stores remained closed to give workers an extra day off, while Boxing Day (December 26) being on a Sunday meant restricted Sunday trading hours were in force, factors that could have pushed consumers into deciding to not go out.

Data from Sensormatic Solutions showed shopper counts fell 61.2% on pre-pandemic levels on Boxing Day. Its footfall index, that counts four billion shopper visits globally each year showed high streets fared worst of all, down 65.9% on 2019. Shopping centres were down 58.2%. Retail parks fared better but were still down by over a third on pre-pandemic levels. 

Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic’s EMEA Retail Consultant, attributed it “to a trifecta of rising covid-19 cases and the spread of Omicron, planned Boxing Day store closures by retailers and early extended discounting”.

Chain store retailers, including M&S, Next and John Lewis, as well as supermarket chains, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Aldi, decided to shut their stores, giving staff an extra day off to thank them for their hard work during the pandemic.

And retailers like Boots and John Lewis started what would have traditionally been their Boxing Day sales ahead of Christmas to drive up demand. "This, combined with the extend discounting season around Black Friday, means many shoppers will have already made their bargain purchases, lessening the need for consumers to brave the sales in-store on Boxing Day itself,” Sumpter added.

Meanwhile the New West End Company said that Boxing Day visitor traffic was down 44% in London’d West End compared with 2019's Boxing Day figures and down 16% compared with the previous week.

But there was some good news as Barclaycard’s data showed consumers’ appetite for Boxing Day sales remains. It estimates UK shoppers spent £1.4 billion online and £2.5 billion in shops over the Boxing Day period.

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