SHOPPERS in South Tyneside made an early start in a bid to bag a bargain in the Boxing Day sales.
Alarm clocks were set and cheque books and credit cards were at the ready as bargain hunters headed into South Shields in search of a discount deal.
High Street chains swung open their doors early to meet the demand from customers keen to cash in – with many items slashed to half price.
Mum-of-three Nicola Wright was at the town’s Waterloo Square retail complex at 5.30am – and hoping her bumper Boxing Day spree will last her for the whole year!
Nicola, from Westoe, South Shields, bought 34 items of clothing for her one-year-old son, Connor, from Next, which opened from 6am until 6pm for one of the prime shopping days of the year.
She still found time to buy goods for her daughters Lucy, 9 and Amy, 8 as well as one top for herself.
Nicola said: “I went to Next to buy clothes for my one-year-old son, Connor. I got 34 items for him. I’m hoping I won’t have to go shopping for him for another year now, and I will have made a lot of savings.
“I just got a top for myself and some gifts for my daughters, but it was mostly about Connor this year. I was up at 5.20am and at Waterloo Square by 5.30am.
“It was well worth it. The queues were big when I got here, they were going down to the end of the square.”
Mother and daughter Maureen Lambert, from Marsden, South Shields, and Claire Gibson, from Boldon, were at the shops for 7.30am.
Claire, 37, said: “We were here for 7.30am – we wanted to make sure we got some good bargains. It seemed busier than last year.
“It is a good time to go out shopping as there are plenty of deals and people have got money from Chriatmas to spend.
Mum Maureen added: “It was a bit busier this year, there were more people here. I come out every year and manage to get a good few bargains.”
Karen Spence and her friend Suzan Cape have made a Boxing Day tradition of an early dart to the sales.
While they felt the queues were shorter this year, there were still plenty of savings in store for both.
Mrs Cape, 53, from Whiteleas, South Shields, said; “I got up at 6am and went and picked up Karen and then we headed out shopping.
“I don’t think there were as many people out this year. I was just out to get some bargains for myself. I picked up some jeans for half price.”
Miss Spence, 37, from Simonside, added; “We have been going out to the Boxing Day sales together for years. I got myself a coat from River Island, and got clothes for my five-year-old daughter Samantha.
“It is definitely worth getting up early for. You can save yourself a fortune.”
Retail experts have predicted the biggest Boxing Day discounts since 2008, after the mild autumn weather left fashion chains with piles of unsold winter clothing to clear after Christmas.
Clarks Shoes, in King Street, say they have focused on a steady footfall through the month of December rather than relying on one sales bonanza day.
The shop didn’t open until 11am yesterday, closing its doors at 4pm.
But a range of discount deals on offer in the past few weeks, meant the store didn’t need to be put off its stride on Boxing Day.
Stephanie Vickers, team leader at the store, said: “We have been holding sales throughout December, which have been going really well.
“We have discounts of up to 60 per cent. We have been aiming to get consistent sales rather than rely on one special day.
“We didn’t open until 11am yesterday and closed at 4pm.”
Another store not getting caught up in the Boxing Day surge was Officers Club.
The men’s clothing store, also based in King Street, didn’t extend its opening hours for the sales.
Gary Moore, manager of the store, said: “We opened at 8.30am and closing time is 5pm.
“It has been quiet, though we expect it to pick up in the afternoon.”