EARLY bird bargain-hunters queued from 4am to snap up bumper discounts in Boxing Day sales across South Yorkshire.
Thousands clamoured to get their hands on clothes, homeware and electricals at up to 75 per cent off in the city centre, Meadowhall and other shopping hotspots yesterday.
Taxis were busy from the early hours ferrying shoppers to stores while crowds gathered outside waiting for the shops to open.
By lunchtime Meadowhall said early indications showed the centre was to have its busiest Boxing Day ‘on record’ with more than 150,000 shoppers through the doors and all its 280 stores trading.
Centre director Darren Pearce said: “Boxing Day has become the most talked-about shopping day of the year, with many people seeking to get their hands on the best post-Christmas bargains.
“Last year we saw more than 90,000 shoppers pass through our doors even with the shortened Sunday trading times - this year indications show the final figures will be closer to 150,000.”
Queues of more than 1,000 people were waiting outside Next in Meadowhall from as early as 4am, with car parks also bursting.
Syed Shams travelled from Watford to Sheffield to visit Next with his cousins.
He said: “It’s like a scavenger hunt in there.
“It’s getting to the point where there isn’t any more stock being put out so people are just buying what they can.”
Sheffield city centre was still dark, with only window cleaners on the streets, when super-keen shoppers hit Next on Fargate.
PhD student Khalad Allafi, of Broomhill, was the first there at 5am.
The 36-year-old said: “I’m hoping to buy a suit for my graduation, I’ve seen one before that I’d like and am hoping it is reduced today.
“I think I was the first person awake in Sheffield as I thought there would be a huge queue.”
For mum Jennie Wiliams, daughters Jo Dearde and Mandy Kurcagja, yesterday’s trip was an annual tradition.
Jennie, 70, of Upperthorpe, said: “We’re hoping to get lots of things, like presents for Christmas or birthdays next year. You can’t start too early, especially in this climate.”
People left Next with bags crammed with cut-price decorations, children’s clothing and perfume.
Mum-of-five Zena Nazir, 40, of Sharrow, spent £120 on children’s clothing.
She said: “I’ve got absolutely loads, it’s a really good discount.
“I got a coat for my daughter I have been waiting to buy her reduced to £15 from £32.”
Some stores in the city centre, including Marks & Spencer and John Lewis, stayed shut.
TJ Hughes in Sheffield opened at 10am to what seemed a quiet start after a hectic Christmas period.
Manager Marie Catchpole said: “We have been doing extremely well, even better than we hoped and I think the atmosphere has been great.”
Despite the lack of public transport, store managers in Doncaster seemed satisfied with the turnout on the first day of the sales.
Some bargain hunters were up well before dawn to grab the best offerings from the Next store in the Frenchgate Centre.
Before Next opened its doors at 6am there was a queue stretching about 150 yards on the first floor of the centre and another queue was ready for the opening of Debenhams at 7am.
Frenchgate deputy manager Adele Patchett said: “It’s not been too bad considering there are no buses or trains into Doncaster.
“It’s been quite a good turnout so far and the shop managers seem happy with business.”
Most of the clothing shops in the Frenchgate were open and offering reductions of up to 80 per cent but Marks and Spencer on Baxtergate was closed.
Even the pound shops had a sale on, with some of their goods slashed to 50p.
Simon Holmes, manager of Costa coffee bar in Waterstone’s, said: “It’s been very busy so far but not like it was last week.”
Shopper Pauline Adamson, from Bessacarr, said: “I came in early because I thought it would be really busy but it’s not been too crowded.
Maybe it’s because some shops started their sales before Christmas.”