December 27, 2008

Boxing Day sale crowds can’t dispel gloom

Record post-Christmas Boxing Day shopping crowds enticed by deep price cuts could not dispel the gloom gripping the British retail industry, observers said.

Department stores, fashion outlets and supermarkets slashed prices by as much as 90 percent in desperate attempts to spur spending, resulting in one of the busiest single shopping days in living memory Friday. But it did little to alleviate a growing feeling of crisis gripping the country's retailing sector, The Times of London reported Saturday.

The hefty discounting prompted thousands of bargain hunters to stand in line outside stores from the early hours of Friday morning, while many shopping centers reported higher foot traffic rates than during last year's sales, the newspaper said.

The London department store Selfridges rang up almost $1.5 million in sales between 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., deemed the most successful hour in the store's 100-year history.

But experts warned of tough times going forward and said more than 10 retailing chains risked going under in January. The British Retail Consortium has urged the government to bail out the industry to avert a wave of bankruptcies as Christmas Eve surveys indicated retail trade was at its worst levels in 25 years, The Times said.