Roughly 10 million Britons--20% of the population--expect to shop in stores or online Dec. 26, spending total of £2.4B, according to surveys

LONDON , December 26, 2012 () – TEN million Boxing Day bargain hunters are likely to spend £2.4billion in the sales today as the high street hopes to boost its coffers on the biggest shopping day of the year.

One in 10 Britons is expected to brave queues of up to two hours to bag a bargain, but almost five million will avoid the crush and the downpours by hunting out deals from the comfort of their homes, surveys found.

Christmas 2012 will be the "biggest and busiest ever" for online retailers, with visits to retail websites expected to reach 126 million today, up 31 per cent on 2011, the analysts Experian predicted.

Millions of people logged on yesterday to take advantage of sales that started early, with expecting its busiest Christmas Day as owners of new MP3s and tablets rushed to buy downloads for their latest gadgets.

A total of 9.8 million shoppers, or one in five Britons, will spend an average of £46.10 in the sales today, a survey of more than 1,000 men and women for the Sheilas' Wheels Annual Sales Spending Report found.

The figures were supported by a separate survey by which found that almost four million Britons (8 per cent) planned to head out to the Boxing Day sales in addition to more than five million (10 per cent) who will search for bargains online.

James Murray, the digital insight manager for Experian, said: "Christmas 2012 is on track to be another record–breaker for online retail, outstripping 2011 on all fronts. The current trends suggest that in the UK, Boxing Day will be the biggest day for online retail, with an estimated 126 million visits to online retail outlets and 17million hours spent online shopping."

But consumers heading to central London will have to deal with a 24–hour strike on the Tube as drivers belonging to the union Aslef are walking out over the union's demand for extra pay for its members working today.

London Underground admitted Tube services were likely to be "significantly disrupted". But extra buses will be running across the capital with additional services heading to the West End and the Westfield Stratford and White City shopping centres.

Crowds are expected to gather in Knightsbridge as the traditional Harrods winter sale is launched with a special performance by Cirque du Soleil before the doors to the renowned department store are opened at 10am, with 50 per cent off some luxury brand items.

Elsewhere, deals include up to 75 per cent off suitcases at Debenhams and the same discount on thousands of men's and women's designer fashion, homeware, and technology at Selfridges, where shoppers are expected to join queues before the store opens at 8am.

But shoppers wanting to visit the high street stores of John Lewis and Fenwick will have to wait until tomorrow for their shops to reopen after Christmas.

The rush began online early this year with many retailers running sales on their websites in the run–up to Christmas and Amazon starting its sale online at 9am yesterday.

The move prompted Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, to warn that Christmas Day was a "precious time" for the family and was "in danger" of being taken over by gadgets.

But Steve Jenkins, a spokesman for the Church of England, urged people to enjoy themselves. He said: "Jesus wasn't born to make us all miserable; it's not about denial." Families have simply swapped sitting around the radio with sitting around the tablet, smartphone and computer, he said.

On the high street Pick of the bargains

Harrods: The Knightsbridge store is offering Balmain coats at £1,250, reduced from £2,150, Diane von Fürstenberg gowns reduced from £415 to £199, and the Chloé candy dress at £449, reduced from £750.

Debenhams: Deals include Karl Jackson navy stripe suits for £59, half–price women's John Rocha puzzle coats for £62.50 and fivepiece stainless steel cookware sets for £130 instead of £220.

Selfridges: Bargains include women's Lee skinny jeans reduced from £85 to £40, Alexander McQueen knitted peplum tops down from £650 to £325 and Ralph Lauren cable–knit silk jumpers at £59 instead of £145.

M&S: Deals including Limited Collection shimmer trim dresses reduced from £45 to £18 and men's Collezione striped jackets reduced to £59 from £109. It is also offering up to 50 per cent off selected furniture.

Next: Starting in most of its stores at 6am, the sale will see items at half price or less, including women's navy knitted jackets for £25 instead of £55 and black/white check jackets down from £65 to £25.

John Lewis: Closed today, its sale begins in most stores at 9am tomorrow, when bargains will include £1,200 sofa beds reduced to £840 and two–seater sofas for £525 instead of £750.
(c) 2012 The Telegraph Group Limited, London

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