'Busiest Boxing Day for a decade' as shoppers hit the sales at Highcross Leicester and Fosse Park
The busiest Boxing Day in years saw shoppers queuing from the early hours yesterday.
Major shopping centres Highcross and Fosse Park saw tens of thousands of bargain hunters turning out as the traditional sales began in earnest.
Tempers frayed in some stores – with security guards having to deal with an argument between two over-zealous customers in Boots, in Fosse Park.
Both the Next stores saw shoppers arriving at about 1.15am, with hundreds joining the queues by the time the doors opened at 6am.
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Queues also formed outside Debenhams department store ready for the big rush at 7am.
Highcross managers estimated that more than 90,000 customers visited the centre during the day – up on the 65,000 shoppers on Christmas Eve.
General manager Jo Tallack said: "Next's children's wear section was particularly busy, so much so that shoppers were restricted to just 300 at a time so staff could manage.
"We expected big queues at Next and Debenhams, but were caught out by River Island and Zara, where entry also had to be restricted. Overall, the first day of the sales definitely exceeded expectations and it's been far busier than last year."
Up to 90,000 shoppers also descended on Fosse Park.
Centre director Adrian Young said: "This is a record-breaking Boxing Day for us.
"The car park was absolutely rammed and by 9.30am it was full with 2,500 vehicles.
"We had stores such as River Island and New Look running out of sales stock by lunchtime.
"In Boots, we even had two customers arguing over sale items. It was handbags at 12 paces and had to be dealt with by security – that's something I haven't seen for years.
"Boxing Day was like the old days, better than any in the past 10 years – shops were trading their socks off.
"This is what the sales were like before the recession. It will be the making of Christmas for many retailers and the icing on the cake for others."
Savvy shoppers said they were pleased they got up early to grab the best bargains.
Sisters Yogita Uttam and Bhagyashri Uttam, from Rushey Mead, Leicester, were up early to hit the sales at Debenhams and H&M.
"We were out to buy clothes and see if we could pick up a few jewellery bargains, too," said Yogita, 19. "It was an early night for us both so we could be at the sales fresh and early."
Bhagyashri said: "This is our big shopping day of the year and a sisters thing we do – it's become a bit of a tradition."
Laden with seven large shopping bags, early birds Dipa Khistariya and Bhavisha Soni, both from Belgrave, had been queuing at Next, in Highcross, from 5am.
"I can't believe how busy it is," said Dipa, 26. "But it's definitely worth the wait.
"I've mainly been shopping for kids' clothing. There is lots of choice. I've got an eight-year-old son and a girl who's three and the clothes I buy today should do them for the next 12 months."
Bhavisha, 36, said: "I did treat myself to a nice dress but mostly I've been shopping for my family. There's lots of excitement and it's been a great day out."
Chloe Shrimpton, aged five, of Braunstone, was out shopping with mum Emma, dad Andrew and baby sister, Lacey.
"We were up most of last night with Lacey but still wanted to come into town and take advantage of the sales," said Emma, 32.
"I'm not crazy enough to start queuing at 1.30am, but we got in at about 10am and had breakfast. It's a relaxed family day out for us.
"My husband and I didn't buy anything for each other on Christmas Day, so we're doing it today.
"He's on the lookout for some trainers and, you won't believe it, but I've bought some Christmas decorations in the sale for next year – I don't like paying full price for anything!"
There was also a steady stream of shoppers in Leicester's Haymarket throughout the day, but sales and footfall figures were not available yesterday.
Bargain fever was expected to start all over again today, with John Lewis and Fenwick launching their post-Christmas sales at 8am.
Shops in St Martin's Square were due to open their doors at 9am.