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Here is the article posted on the Telegraph.co.uk .

Record discounts were on offer in the post-Christmas sales as retailers slashed prices up to 90 per cent in a bid to survive the credit crunch.

At Selfridges department store, in London’s Oxford Street, bargain-hunters queued from 3am to take advantage of 50 per cent discounts on designer brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada.

Security guards struggled to keep control of the screaming crowd of thousands which flooded the ground floor when the shop opened at 9am – three hours earlier than originally planned.

« It was mental when they came into the store, » a spokeswoman said, « I’ve never seen anything like it.

« People were running into the store and grabbing bags. Some women had four of five bags in their hands. Security had to get more people down to the store to help. »

Joseph Yu, 21, was first in the queue after driving from Bristol in the middle of the night. « I’ve come for the Gucci, » he said.

Wei-Xing Lee, 24, a business analyst from Shenzhen, China said: « It’s worth getting up early to come because the savings are so big. With the exchange rate so good it makes sense buying here.

« I don’t know why anyone would pay the full price anymore. »

Shoppers were forced to wait up to an hour to pay for items and guards were posted at the bottom of escalators to regulate numbers jostling to reach the higher floors.

Debenhams, which slashed prices by as much as 70 per cent in what it described as its biggest-ever sale, opened its doors at 7am.

Mother-of-three Jane Lowry, 41, of Shepherds Bush, west London, said: « There was a few things the children wanted which we couldn’t afford before Christmas but we said they could have them in the sales, so I got here early to make sure they weren’t disappointed. »

A spokesman for the retailer said: « The stores at Lakeside and on Oxford Street saw queues of about 500 people from about 6am. And at the Trafford Centre store in Manchester there were queues of 200 to 300 people from about 6am.

« It’s early days yet but people look like they are responding to the offers. »

He said the most popular sale items were pots and pans, bed linen and ladies party wear.

Ernst & Young, the consultancy firm, predicted prices will be cut by a record 56.7 per cent in the sales, significantly more than last year’s 52.6 per cent. Those cuts completely overshadow pre-Christmas discounting.

Jason Gordon at Ernst & Young, said: « Consumers are unlikely to see prices this low for a very, very long time. »

In London, the New West End Company which is responsible for Oxford Street, Bond Street and Regent Street said never before had so many stores opened on Boxing Day.

Jace Tyrrell, from NWEC, added: « Every store on Oxford Street is open today apart from John Lewis and Marks and Spencer, which is unheard of. »

At the Harvey Nichols department store in Edinburgh, more than 100 people were waiting outside the door for its 10am opening.

Marketing manager Kevin Stewart said: « We’ve got up to 50 per cent off many items and I can see us being sold out in some departments by the end of the day.

« It’s always the handbags people go for. The doors open and they go straight for Gucci and Prada which have 50 per cent off. »

At Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, retailers tempted shoppers with price cuts of up to 95 per cent.

The 330-store mall saw shops like House of Fraser, which traditionally stays closed on Boxing Day, opening for the first time with 70 per cent discounts

The centre’s 13,000 car parking spaces were expected to be full by mid-morning .

Game store manager Mike Wright said: « It’s bedlam in here. It’s the same every year, kids want to get out straight away with their Christmas money and buy games to play with their friends. It’ll get even busier over the weekend. »

Bargain hunters in Reiss were snapping up men’s suits which normally cost £500 for as little as £150.

Waitress Lea Ringer, 18, from Henham, Essex, said: « If you don’t get down here early then everything goes. I heard that a lot of stores had started their sales on Christmas Eve so I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out. »

Hannah and Andrew Goodge, both 37, travelled from Brighton, East Sussex, with their three children.

Hannah said: « The kids wanted a Nintendo Wii and some games but we decided to wait until now to get them their big gifts. I told them Santa Claus is feeling the pinch so they’ve had to wait an extra day or two. »

Bargain hunters got an early start on Christmas Day with many retailers starting sales online on December 25. More than five million people went online on Christmas Day and spent an estimated £104 million, up from £84 million last year.

Electronic goods such as TVs and laptops were proving popular with initial sales figures up on last year.

However, despite the crowds, analysts were gloomy about the figures from the high street.

The British Retail Consortium said Christmas results for retailers would « not be pretty » and the level of discounts was unprecedented.

Director General Stephen Robertson said: « The reductions will be larger in number and deeper than we have seen at any point in recent history.

« But I think some retailers will be daring to breathe a sigh of relief because it’s clear that customers have left their spending very late rather than cancelled it entirely. »

Music and games retailer Zavvi became the third retailer in 24 hours to fall into administration on Christmas Eve.

The group’s woes followed those of tea and coffee merchant Whittard of Chelsea and menswear retailer The Officers Club, which were both put into administration and sold.

Analysts have speculated that between 10 and 15 national and regional chains could collapse before the end of next month.

Recent research by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that 82% of high street retailers offered either sales or promotions in the run up to Christmas.



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