EAGER bargain hunters pitched up at Lakeside Shopping Centre from 4am for the Boxing Day sales on Wednesday.

Some shopping centre staff were drafted in at 3am to deal with the expected crowds of around 110,000 shoppers, 3,000 of which were predicted to queue just for the Next sale.

The shopping centre officially opened at 9am, but some stores, including Next, opened at 6am, and visitors had until 7pm to bag the best buys.

Queues to grab one of the centre’s 13,000 car parking spaces caused long traffic delays.

Lakeside’s general manager, Paul Lancaster, said: “Cars began entering the car parks as early as 4am and eager shoppers queued to be first to the bargains.

“Whilst the shopping centre officially opened at 9am, Next opened its doors to sale shoppers at 6am with many stores following shortly after.

"Despite pre-Christmas retailer events, the post-Christmas sales are as popular as ever with shoppers being tempted by discounts on a wide range of products, from cosmetic gift sets to bigger ticket items.

“Gift cards have been a popular Christmas present this year and now shoppers are keen to spend them.”

Boxing Day sale records were smashed nationally, as tills rang like mad up and down the country.

An estimated 10million shoppers battled to bag a bargain, spending in the region of £2.9billion.

Some retailers slashed prices by as much as 80 per cent.

Selfridge's, in London’s West End, recorded the best first hour of trade in its history, making £1.5million.

Lakeside’s rival shopping centre, Bluewater in Kent, saw about 120,000 shoppers pass through its doors, with queues forming at 1am.