LONDON (Reuters) - Britons were out in force for the Boxing Day sales with 8 percent more shoppers than last year, despite heavy rainfall that left parts of the country under water and without power, figures from retail data company Springboard showed on Thursday.
Shopping centres saw a 22 percent rise in the number of bargain-hunters coming through their doors, while high street stores saw 3.4 percent more shoppers as of 10am, the data showed.
Some stores opened as early as 6am in London's main shopping district in the West End and Oxford Street, where over a million people are expected to turn out according to retailers.
Many shops started Britain's traditional "January sales" online on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as British shoppers increasingly demand earlier and deeper discounting.
Britain's economy has been growing robustly and unemployment has fallen steadily but many Britons still face a squeeze in living standards due to stagnating wages and rising utility bills.
Department store John Lewis reported record sales for the week before Christmas on Thursday and said that for the first time it expected the majority of British shoppers to use smartphones rather than desktop computers to make online purchases.
It said its sales in the week to December 21 were up 4.2 percent on last year at 164.4 million pounds ($270 million), surpassing the 160 million-pound mark for the first time.
The department store will release its five-week trading update on January 2.
The retailer also said that on Christmas day, three in four shoppers used their smartphones or tablets rather than traditional desktops to shop on their site, marking a shift from previous years.
"The tipping point has now passed and we expect mobile to be the way the majority of people shop online from now on," said Mark Lewis, online director at John Lewis.
Reporting By Costas Pitas; Editing by Hugh Lawson