People queued in the dark to get their hands on Boxing Day bargains yesterday despite experts reporting a change in the way we shop.

Across Sussex shoppers were out early to make the most of bargains at Next, Marks & Spencer and other large chains, despite online retailers having begun heavy discounts on Christmas Day.

Helen Simmonds from Woodingdean was first in the queue at Marks & Spencer in Western Road, which opened its doors on Boxing Day for the first time in many years.

She said: “I always shop at M&S and I wanted to make sure I snapped up some bargains. I was very pleased with what I managed to pick up.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said high street spending had been “acceptable but not exceptional”

this festive period, blaming the figures on poor accessibility to high streets and weak consumer demand rather than online shopping.

Analysts Experian said that Christmas 2012 will be the “biggest and busiest ever” for online retailers in the UK, with visits to retail websites expected to reach 126 million today, up 31% on 2011 and consumers predicted to spend £472.5 million online.

Richard Dodd, from the BRC, said: “There are a lot of myths around online retail. 10% of overall retailing over the year comes from online shopping and actually it presents lots of opportunities for the retail sector.”

Retail analyst Neil Saunders said: “Some sales are still an event. Next doesn’t discount at any other time so people still see it as something special.

“Also by Boxing Day people have had a few days off and are a bit bored. Shopping has become something of a national pastime.”

Mark Dyne, the manager at Next in Worthing, said this year’s sales were on a par with 2011.

He said: “We opened at 6am and had an initial rush although it calmed down later on.”

Sales were steady at the Next outlet at Brighton Retail Park in Carden Avenue, the manageress said.