Boxing Day shoppers were out in force in Sunderland - from 4.30am.
And by lunchtime on the traditional day for bargain seeking, up to 80,000 people had passed through the doors of the Bridges.
We have had people queueing from 4.30am for Next. As soon as we opened to allow them in to get warm, it built up to more than 600John Green
John Green, retail liaison manager at the Bridges, said he had never seen a queue as big as the one which gathered outside, with 150 people in it before the shopping centre opened at 6am.
He said numbers grew to more than 300 once bargain hunters were let inside to get warm.
Shoppers had turned up so early to be ready for the opening of Next and Mr Green added; “It is the biggest queue I have seen.”
By lunchtime, between 70,000 and 80,000 people had visited the centre and Mr Green admitted: “It has been very busy for the main stores.
He said another store - Lush which sells handmade cosmetics - was so busy, barriers had to be erected for the queues outside.
Mr Green said bargain hunters were particularly on the lookout for fashion, and for health and beauty items.
The huge turnout reflected how the trend had been for shopping over the festive period.
“It has been a bumper Christmas,” said Mr Green. He said new stores and brands had “attracted new customers to the centre. Footfall has been robust.”
Nationally, queues formed down the street at London department store Harrods, which opened its doors at 10am. Butlers gave croissants, coffee and bacon sandwiches to those patiently waiting, and put on a dance show.
Consumers have enjoyed yet another year of falling prices and bargains as the new normal, but their good fortune has seen retailers suffer their toughest year, according to experts.
Richard Hyman, who has analysed the retail sector for more than 30 years, said: “It has been extraordinarily tough without any impact from Brexit at all. For the last two and a half years, we’ve had price deflation in virtually every sector.
“In 2016, on average more than 60% of UK retailers have been on sale. I’ve never seen a market like this. Sales used to be used to clear stock. That’s a thing of the past. Now there is a permanent sale.
“This year will be a picnic compared to next year.”
A quarter of Britons were expected to shop in the Boxing Day sales, down from 32% last year, according to Barclaycard.
The figures suggest the incentive to buy in the sales has weakened following widespread discounting, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, that continued well into December.