Bargain hunters are out in force

BARGAIN hunters were up early as retailers recorded bumper Boxing Day sales.

Shoppers were out in their droves in Hartlepool and east Durham, keen to bag a bargain in what businesses hope will mark a great start to recession-busting new year sales.

Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, in Hartlepool, saw a steady stream of shoppers, while the town’s marina-based Anchor and Highlight retail parks, as well as Dalton Park, near Easington, were buzzing with activity throughout the first day of sales.

Middleton Grange centre manager Mark Rycraft said, in a first for the centre, early shoppers had queued to get into the complex itself, rather than the traditional sight of queuing to get into individual stores.

He said 45 out of more than 100 units opened on Boxing Day and added: “We opened at 8am on Boxing Day and there was already queues of people waiting to get into the centre, in particular for River Island and The Card Shop.

“We were busy from the moment the doors opened until 6pm.

“We are pleased with the response and we had free parking on Boxing Day, which we believe helped.

“While we are pleased with the sales, we have almost bucked the trend in terms of people queuing to get into the centre. It is something we have not experienced before.

“We are pleased with the level of footfall and expect a continuation of sales activity.”

Meanwhile, bosses at Dalton Park reported an increase in footfall of 21 per cent on last year, with the strongest performances coming from Next Clearance, M&S Outlet, Nike Clearance, adidas and general fashion stores.

In the eight weeks up to the Christmas weekend, centre numbers were strong against the snow disruption last year, up 12 per cent from then, but this strong performance also produced an increase of 11.5 per cent on the same eight weeks in 2009.

Jerry Hatch, general manager at Dalton Park, said: “There is evidence that Christmas started early as we enjoyed a very strong November with overall sales up seven per cent on last year.

“This indicates that customers have been looking to spread the cost over several months.”

Dalton Park also looks forward to phase two of its development following recent Durham County Council planning committee approval.

The plans are an expansion of the existing retail park, which include a cinema, supermarket, hotel, more food and drink units and a petrol filling station.