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UK's boxing day sales expected to plummet over Omicron fears

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Boxing day sales
Sales figures on boxing day are estimated to be £3.94bn, down 10% on 2019’s figures and down 1% from 2020, if non-essential stores are allowed to remain open. Photo: Reuters

Retail sales are expected to slump on Boxing Day regardless of what kind of restrictions the government puts in place as the threat of Omicron looms, new data revealed.

Research from VoucherCodes showed that sales figures on one of the biggest shopping days of the year will total almost £4bn ($5.4bn) on 26 December, down 10% on 2019’s figures (£4.4bn) and down 1% from 2020 (£3.97bn), in the event that non-essential stores are allowed to remain open.

One in 45 people in the UK had COVID in the week to 16 December, the Office for National Statistics's recent data showed.

There will be no new COVID rules in England announced before Christmas, the government has said, but it is unclear what will happen after. Prime minister Boris Johnson hasn't ruled out stricter restrictions and it remains to be seen if non-essentials shops will be shut.

“The Boxing Day sales period is notoriously one of the biggest and best-known discounting events in the British retail calendar, but sadly one that has been most badly hit by COVID,” said Angus Drummond, senior director, commercial at VoucherCodes.

“This year, during the lead up to Christmas we witnessed retailers battle with the Omicron variant as consumers pulled away from in-store spending in a bid to remain safe and protect their Christmases.”

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“At the same time, uncertainty around a potential post-Christmas lockdown has dominated the public conversation, with many consumers preparing for a post-Christmas period under much tighter restrictions".

Assuming brick and mortar shops are open on Boxing Day, shoppers will be reluctant to hit the high street due to Omicron fears, and sales are set to drop 23% versus 2019.

A total of £13.9bn is set to be spent between 25 December to 31 December – down 9% on 2019.

Online spending is expected to hit £1.43bn, a 25% rise compared with 2019 sales (£1.14bn), but a 16% drop from last Christmas when online sales hit £1.7bn.

Should the UK be placed into full lockdown and non-essential stores forced to close, the research expects total sales on Boxing Day to drop 10% compared to 2019 and down 1% on 2020.

Retailers will face a “bleak Christmas sales period” as total sales in the last six days of the year are expected to drop 8% compared to 2019, the report said. High street spending will drop 30% from £3.6bn in 2019 to £2.3bn.

There is a slight sales increase forecast compared to 2020’s £2.26bn spend as shoppers can still get items like cosmetics at some essential shops.

Online spending is expected to hit £1.67bn, an enormous 46% rise compared with 2019 sales (£1.14bn), “highlighting the full effects of the pandemic and the shift to online shopping as a result of store closures,” the report said.

This year’s predicted spend represents a 2% drop from the last post-Christmas period when online sales hit £1.71bn amid a national lockdown.

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