UK high streets busy on New Year’s Day as consumers return unwanted gifts, Boxing Day shopping an anti-climax

Footfall on UK high streets leapt 17% year-on-year on New Year’s Day, dubbed ‘Boomerang Thursday’, as shoppers returned Christmas gifts, according to data analyst Springboard. Many also spent gift vouchers and picked up online orders.

Meanwhile, the traditional Boxing Day sales frenzy proved to be an anti-climax as earlier online demand meant retailers had sold much of their pre-Christmas merchandise.

Traffic in retail parks and shopping centres also rose 10% on-year on Thursday, according to Springboard. That compares with a 5% decline in shopper numbers on the weekend after Christmas.

Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing director, said the New Year’s Day rebound was a reflection of changing shopping habits: “There’s a new pattern emerging. This is the first year it’s been that evident.”

She said that part of the rise in shopper numbers was a reflection of customers shopping online during the Christmas period. “Seventy-five per cent of retailers have facilities for click-&-collect now. This is the first year they have mastered it.”

Meanwhile, a wave of £500m of returned Christmas gifts was predicted by LCP Consulting, boosted by the increase in the physical return of goods bought online.

Alan Braithwaite, chairman of LCP Consulting, told The Times newspaper: “You have this vision of tills being clogged by people going to the store to take things back because they don’t want to spend money on the returns packaging, which is impacting on customers trying to buy things in the sales. It’s a point of stress that retailers will have to think about as the online sector grows.”

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