Post-Christmas sales see strong start in Britain

People doing last minute Christmas shopping on Oxford Street in central London on December 23, 2014 (AFP Photo/Justin Tallis)

London (AFP) - Hundreds of thousands of bargain-seekers stormed British shops as post-Christmas sales began on Friday, in what one department store said was its most successful ever year.

A crowd of 4,000 gathered on London's main shopping site Oxford Street outside the Selfridges department store ahead of its opening at 09:00 GMT.

Selfridges said some shoppers began queueing at 22:30 GMT the day before on Christmas day, lured by discounts of up to 70 percent.

Within an hour tills at the flagship British fashion and luxury store took in over 2 million pounds ($3.11 million, 2.55 million euros) -- the department store's most successful hour on record, the shop said.

"It's the first time I'm shopping on Boxing Day, and queueing up and this is amazing," said Jenny, a tourist from Malaysia who was waiting outside the store.

"I've been waiting here outside the doors since 8:30 so it's not too bad," said Tahira, another tourist from Malaysia. "I'm expecting to get a good bargain."

Selfridges said it expected 160,000 customers to visit the store by closing time, compared to a usual figure of 250,000 customers a week.

Consumers are expected to spend 748 million pounds ($1.2 billion, 956 million euros) on "Boxing Day", the day after Christmas, 29 percent more than last year according to estimates by Experian and the online trade association IMRG.

Retail employs 10 percent of the workforce in Britain, and is expected to see record annual sales of about 342 billion pounds ($532 billion, 437 billion euros), an increase of 48 billion pounds compared to 2010, according to government estimates.

A long squeeze on consumers due to prices growing faster than wages since 2009 finally eased as inflation slowed at the end of the year.

The government had lauded indications the economy was recovering over 2014, but growth estimates were revised just before Christmas and showed the country's economy had grown more slowly over the year than previously thought.