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    Sales draw boxing day bargain hunters

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    Retailers have reported a welcome boost to festive trading as Boxing Day sales hunters came out in force to snap up bargains.


    Shopping centres and high streets up and down Britain were packed as stores slashed prices to lure back the crowds after freezing pre-Christmas temperatures and heavy snow hit sales.


    Stores were restricted to six-hour Sunday trading, but some malls opened early to allow people to browse.


    Many out of town centres reported car parks full to capacity as shops opened their doors.


    The impending VAT increase from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent on January 4 gave consumers a reason to splash out on pricier items such as electronic goods and furniture.


    Shoppers in London had to contend with the Tube strike, but crowds still descended on the West End to pick up bargains slashed by up to 70 per cent.


    When Selfridges in Oxford Street opened its doors for trade at 11am more than 8,000 people were waiting outside, compared to 2,000 last year, a spokeswoman said.


    A Mulberry bag was the first transaction in the store's accessories hall.


    Women's handbags and shoes were best selling categories, taking more than £1.2 million in the first three hours.


    At the Bullring in Birmingham more than 25,000 visitors passed through the doors before 12pm.


    At WestQuay shopping centre in Southampton, retailers expected a similar number of Boxing Day shoppers to last year's 56,000, despite the shorter trading hours.


    Aberdeen's Union Square shopping centre said iPads and HD televisions were among the most sought-after items.


    By 1pm there were 70,000 shoppers swarming over the 200 shops at the Trafford Centre on the outskirts of Manchester.


    A spokesman for Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe, Kent, said more than 100,000 visitors were expected to pass through its doors, with more than 900,000 people forecast to visit the centre by January 1.