TILLS were ringing this week as the Christmas sales got underway.

Thousands of people flocked to shops across south Essex to grab a festive bargain as stores slashed prices.

Dawn Jeakings, chairman of the Southend Town Centre Partnership and manager of the Royals shopping centre, said trading had been good.

She said: “Boxing Day was a buoyant day considering the challenging lead up to the big day.

The three days before Christmas saw the largest increase in footfall in December.”
Boxing Day sales records were smashed as shoppers across the country headed to the high street as well as buying online.

People waited outside shopping centres for them to open, and even camped overnight, to make sure they were first in line.

Internet shopping also boomed with 84 million visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107 million visits on Christmas Day.

Mike Horton, from Basildon’s Eastgate shopping centre, said they had seen some stores start cutting prices early.

He said: “Boxing Day was busy, it was a very good day. It was certainly a very good start to the sales period.

“Shoppers are very canny, they know what is coming up. We are beginning to see gift cards and gift vouchers being used more and more and people coming in after Christmas to spend money on what they want.

“The sales started very early morning. Next opened at 6am, Debenhams opened at 7am before the normal centre opening time of 9am.”

Mr Horton said the past few years had been very challenging for retailers but he was hopeful of a boost for the high street in 2013.

He added: “We are seeing signs here and there that people are becoming more confident and they are prepared to come out and spend more money.”