Shoppers can no longer count on finding Boxing Day bargains

With sale prices appearing at the start of December, stores are not planning the usual reductions

The days of the Boxing Day sales bonanza could be over as customers are bombarded by bargain offers from stores in the runup to Christmas.

Discounts are widely available both online and on the high street as retailers become increasingly agile at monitoring demand and altering prices accordingly.

Where once a set price would remain until the shops closed on Christmas Eve – then fall sharply for the start of the sales on Boxing Day – prices now fluctuate to attract buyers. Many big stores offer large discounts on a range of items pre-Christmas to bring consumers through the doors.

Retailers predict that the highly competitive December pricing will mean that the tradition of the Boxing Day sales as a time to buy expensive items at a reduced rate will fade out. Debenhams, Argos and John Lewis have reduced items significantly this month, with products discounted by up to 60% in store and online. Shoppers are now not buying at full price in the knowledge that items are likely be reduced before Boxing Day.

Darren Pearce, centre director at Meadowhall Shopping Centre in Sheffield, said: “Traditionally, we’ve seen shoppers begin their Christmas shopping as early as July or August. However, this year they are waiting longer, shopping around for the best deals and holding out for big-brand discount events.”

Debenhams’ official “January sale” started online on Saturday, and shoppers have been able to buy discounted items since the start of December. At Argos more than 500 toys have already been put in the sale.

Harrods, a stickler for British tradition in keeping to the Boxing Day deadline, has also been cutting prices online and in store as Christmas approaches. In its discreetly titled “Home Sale Preview”, prices have been reduced by 50%. A silk bedding set, previously priced at £1,299, could be bought for £649 online, with further reductions to be found in store. Despite the pre-Christmas offers, Harrods said its winter sale opening on 26 December “remains one of [its] most important trading days of the year”. Thousands of shoppers are expected to attend the sale opening, which will be marked by a performance by Cirque du Soleil.

As people struggle to cope financially, there will be some who will hold their nerve in the anticipation of even greater discounts in the official January sales.

Professor Joshua Bamfield, the director of the Centre for Retail Research, has predicted a flurry of buying on Boxing Day and the day after. His research has indicated that in 36% of households at least one person buys some Christmas gifts after the day itself.

However, Bamfield said most stores had been particularly cautious when buying stock, acquiring only what they thought they could sell before Christmas in order to avoid losses of profits on reduced items. This meant bargains were likely to run out fast. © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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