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We are sale-ing

Just hear those cash tills jingle-ing... Alison Brace on the post-Christmas bargain School's out and, if you're lucky, the seasonal consumer madness is behind you, the presents wrapped and under the tree. Now you can forget planning, forget marking and turn to the real business of Christmas - time with the family, mulled wine, mince pies.

But not for long, it seems. Shopping may end on Christmas Eve - but less than 36 hours later, the tills are ringing again and we're out there buying once more. And we don't just roll up at midday.

"I got up at 4.30am one year for the Next sale - I thought I'd be first in the queue, but found half of Bradford had beaten me to it," says Daniel Watkins, a teacher from Shipley, West Yorkshire.

"It was pouring down with rain and there I stood with lots of other morons, clutching my list."

Not for nothing is shopping now ranked as one of our top leisure activities. According to figures from the British Retail Consortium, which represents 90 per cent of UK stores, we spend about pound;5 billion in the post-Christmas sales. Not bad, considering we've just spent around pound;30 billion in the run-up to Christmas.

Break down those figures and you find Christmas Day itself costs about Pounds 975 per household - that's pound;1.35 a minute from breakfast until you nod off in front of the telly 12 hours later.

But overdrafts, rain and Christmas burn-out aren't enough to put us off shopping. So much so, according to the Nationwide building society, that one in five of us is prepared to spend up to eight hours sales shopping just to save pound;10.

So if you must shop, go for gold. Daniel takes a list of family birthday presents for the next year, drawn up by his wife Mandy. "It's an economical offset, and a bit of feel-good factor," he says. Massive savings can be made on costly goods such as electricals and furniture if you plan ahead.

If you want to avoid the queues and the rain - shop from your sofa. John Lewis's online sale starts on Boxing Day ahead of its shops opening on the 27th. And www.salesintheuk.co.uk will point you in the direction of other bargains.

So will Daniel be braving the crowds this year? "It will depend on how jolly I'm feeling," he says. At least he can guarantee one more day's rest - this year's Next sale starts on December 27

BOXING DAY OPENING

Bluewater, Kent - 10am-6pm

Trafford Centre, Manchester - 10am-8pm

Meadowhall Centre, Sheffield - 9am-6pm

Bull Ring, Birmingham - 10am-6pm

The Mall, Cribbs Causeway, Bristol - 10am-6pm

Castlecourt, Belfast - 1pm-6pm Braehead, Glasgow - 10am-7pm Queens Arcade, Cardiff - 11am-5pm

TOP TIPS

Research price in advance

Get there early

Take an umbrella

Don't bring children and pets

Know your sizes

Bring refreshments

Source: British Retail Consortium

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