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Overnight queues, pandemonium, and even the odd punch-up – chaotic scenes played out across the country as a huge influx of shoppers, many from the Far East, flooded the Boxing Day sales.
Some of the shoppers, many of whom travelled to the UK especially for "sales holidays" from China, the Middle East, Russia and Nigeria, had been queuing from as early as 11pm on Christmas Day.
As the doors opened at 9am at Selfridges in London, security guards urged them to "keep calm", shouting "there are old people and children in the queues, please stop pushing" and "take your time, you will all get in, don’t panic".
Manic bargain hunters were seen grabbing armfuls of £1,000 Prada, Gucci and Mulberry handbags and shoes and running to the tills to secure their purchases.
For the first time, uniformed police officers patrolled inside the store in a bid to deter shoplifters, pickpockets and gangs, which have previously targeted the sales.
And there were reports of physical fights over sale items, while one woman in Manchester was treated by paramedics after she fainted in the queue for Next.
Yesterday, Chinese shoppers outnumbered any other nationality across Britain’s designer department stores. They and shoppers from Kuwait top the UK’s list for tax-free spending in the UK.
Selfridges was a particular target for visitors, with shoppers there – mostly from the Far East – spending £2million within the first hour, with 4,000 people having queued outside ahead of its opening.
Designer bags such as Gucci, Mulberry or Givenchy would cost Chinese four times as much in their home country, due to high taxes on overseas goods.
Huihui Hailin, 44, flew in especially from China and spent £3,400 in the Harrods sale, including £1,200 on a Lanvin dress and £600 on an Alexander McQueen handbag. She said: "They were both nearly half price, it is unreal."
Singaporean student Isabel Chew, 20, said: "You can hardly move. It is worth it though. The sales are the best in the world."
A spokesman for Selfridges said that the queue for the sales began at 11.30 last night - more than nine hours before the doors opened to customers. Retail director Sue West said that Boxing Day was a big occasion for Chinese customers, as well as visitors from continental Europe.
"The Chinese market is hugely important to Selfridges," she said. "It's one of the fastest growing international markets that we have."
Wang Tianyi, a student from China who is studying in Liverpool, and his girlfriend Sun Yeting, who is on holiday visiting him, queued from 4am to snap up luxury goods as gifts for their families.
Wei Tao, 23, who is also from China, said: "I have been into Selfridges this morning to get a Louis Vuitton handbag."
Nevy Frega, 20, and Hassan Frega, 19, from Egypt, said: "We come to the sales every year, it is a great opportunity to buy lots of designer and high street clothes - we love British fashion."
Global Blue, a tax-free shopping consultancy, said that Chinese shoppers were set to be the biggest overseas spenders this year, with each customer spending an average of £1,367 per transaction.
Ms West added that Boxing Day is "normally one of the biggest days of the year", as it is one of only two sales which the shop holds every year.