Boxing Day stampede forces shop to close doors
BOXING Day bargain hunters forced a Plymouth store to close three times when a stampede to the tills led to safety fears.
Shoppers flocked to the city centre in their thousands, some queuing since 6am in search of the best post-Christmas deals.
Hordes of people headed for Next, in Drake Circus, where the high street retailer’s half-price sale proved one of the biggest hits.
The store had to close its doors three times during the morning amid health and safety fears, staff describing the rush as “manic”.
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Next opened at 7am to queues of people snaking all the way back to the shopping centre’s car park and entrance.
Happy but exhausted customer Sharon Davies, from Crownhill, described how frenzied bargain hunters streamed into the store as they battled to be the first through the doors.
“That’s the first time we’ve come in when it opened and it was well worth it,” she said clutching bags full of children’s clothes, boots and a new coat.
“Next was brilliant but everyone was shoving and pushing and running to get in there – it was mad.”
The store’s manager said staff struggled to keep customers from coming inside, and had to temporarily shut up shop to keep within health and safety guidelines.
She said: “It’s the first time we’ve been open on Boxing Day and it’s been absolutely manic.
“I couldn’t put a number of the amount of people we’ve had in, but it has been thousands and thousands.
“It’s been unbelievable, they’re buying everything.”
One group of sales lovers were already on their third trip to the city centre by 9.30am, having bought so much they had to keep returning to their car to drop off more bags.
One of those braving the changeable Boxing Day weather was grandmother Ann Jenkins.
She said: “We waited half an hour to get served in Next but it’s brilliant stuff in there.”
There had been concerns shoppers would be put off by the lack of free parking in the city this year – but that was not the case.
Boxing Day fell on a Saturday, meaning usual weekend charges applied, rather than traditional reduced Bank Holiday rates that people can take advantage of on Monday.
Cllr Kevin Wigens, cabinet member for transport, said: “We took the view, as in common with many comparative local authorities, that as it is not actually a Bank Holiday it would have perhaps been too complex to arrange a change to parking fees for the one day.
“The charges we have in Plymouth favourably compare with those in most other cities.”