EAST Lancashire shoppers hit the high street yesterday as Boxing Day sales records were smashed.

Across the country, thousands of bargain hunters waited patiently for stores to throw open their doors with some queuing overnight.

The UK average footfall was up by 21.6 per cent.

Hundreds of people queued up from 5am outside Next in Blackburn shopping centre The Mall to ensure they were first in line to grab a good deal.

Andy Smith, operations manager, said: “The early indications are very positive. It has been very busy, particularly with the Next sale. People were queuing around the centre from 5am.

“Every store I have been in touch with is boasting plus figures on last year, such as Primark, Toymaster, The Body Shop and Costa Coffee.

“Christmas started cautiously, but the week leading up to Christmas saw a strong last minute drive. I’m pleasantly surprised.”

Oswaldtwistle Mills said trade was positive, with prices being slashed by 50 per cent for some lines – particularly Christmas stock.

Duty manager Trevor Oakley said: “Trade seems pretty good. It’s not overwhelming, but is it slightly better than expected.

“Christmas Eve was a good shopping day for us. The reductions are helping to put money in the tills.”

Tills were also ringing at Burnley’s new Next store and Boundary Mill in Colne.

Pendle Council leader Joe Cooney, who is also executive member for regeneration, said: “The Boxing Day sales have become an important day in the calendar. I think smaller shops have realised that they need to work a bit harder to compete with the bigger shopping centres and we have seen a number of new shops open this year in Colne and Nelson.

“We have a large number of people employed in the retail sector so it’s good for them and it’s good for those shoppers looking for a bargain.”

According to Money Supermarket.com, shoppers were set to spend £2.9billion.