Anger at Amazon starting its sale on Christmas Day, with critics claiming Christmas should remain a family occasionOnline retailers expect 307million of business on Tuesday aloneCritics have called for the sales to be postponed until Boxing DayRetailers are desperate to clear their stock and will unveil sales a day early
23:18 GMT, 22 December 2012
Church leaders have warned that Christmas Day is in danger of becoming a ‘frenzy of bargain hunting’ after Amazon announced it is launching its sale on December 25.
Online retailers expect an astonishing 307 million of business on Tuesday alone – 50 per cent more than an average day.
Critics have called for the sales to be postponed until Boxing Day, leaving Christmas as a family occasion and religious celebration.
Unheard of: Amazon has announced that it will be launching its sale on Christmas Day to the anger of church leaders
However, after a disappointing December, many retailers desperate to clear their stock have decided to unveil their sales a day early.
A huge proportion of the 42 million Britons who shop online are likely to log on, dwarfing the 2.3 million expected at Christmas Day services, including Midnight Mass.
Most controversially, the biggest retailer, Amazon – already under fire for avoiding UK tax on its estimated 3 billion annual sales – will begin listing bargains from 9am on Christmas morning.
Alongside discounted stock will be ‘Lightning Deals’ – limited offers throughout the day, which are likely to pose a distraction from unwrapping presents.
High street chains in the online rush include Currys PC World, John Lewis, Halfords, Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser and Argos, all of whose sales begin on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, many have already begun to offer major discounts in shops and online.
'It never stops': Amazon (warehouse pictured) – already under fire for avoiding UK tax – will begin listing bargains from 9am on December 25
Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said: ‘Christmas Day is a time to be together with the family, to focus on the children and to have a great time together.
‘This day is precious. We are now in danger of the gadgets taking over our lives and we are not in control of them.’
The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, a close contender for the post of Archbishop of Canterbury earlier this year, said: ‘Christmas Day is an oasis of peace in an often frenzied world.
‘It’s a pity we don’t seem able to sustain a 24-hour period free of our acquisitiveness. We do need a Sabbath [rest] from shopping if only once a year.’
And Andrea Williams, chief executive of Christian Concern and a member of the General Synod, added: ‘We all miss out if we forget the true meaning of Christmas.
‘And we will forget it if there is no space to remember. Big businesses have a responsibility to leave that space open for families to spend time with one another.
Lord Carey said: 'Christmas Day is a time to be together with the family…'
‘Companies like Amazon will say they are meeting consumer demand. But surely even they recognise their responsibility to ensure time for things that money can’t buy’
Her views echo the words of Pope Benedict XVI, who last year claimed Christmas had increasingly become a ‘shopping holiday’.
However, a spokesman for Amazon said that although its website would take orders on Christmas Day, warehouse staff would not begin dispatching products until Boxing Day or December 27. He added that last year, some shoppers logged on as early as 6am to download music and books for their new iPods, Kindles and other devices.
Andrew McClelland, of e-retailers’ organisation IMRG, said: ‘As consumers encounter discounts and offers already available in the sales on these sites, it is not surprising they will spend more than 300 million even on Christmas Day itself.
‘Online, the Christmas shopping never really stops.’ A spokesman for Currys PC World said: ‘We are simply offering something our customers want and have, in past years, demonstrated that they want.
‘Of course the convenience of online is such that customers can dip in and out of the sales without compromising time with family, friends and the other things that they hold dear at this time of year.’
However, MP Gary Streeter, chairman of the all-party Christians in Parliament Group, said: ‘It’s a sad reflection on our times. I hope that most people will be focusing on their families and on bigger issues on Christmas Day and not ordering books online.
‘I would hope we’d never see shops opening at Christmas. It would require a change in the law and I can’t see Parliament voting for that – most people want to focus on their families and rightly so.’
Senior Tory backbencher Sir Tony Baldry, who speaks for the Church of England in the Commons, added: ‘I think that it’s very sad if we can’t retain at least one day of the year as a family day, a day of celebration and reflection to mark Christmas and for people to be together.
‘Whatever Amazon or others sell on Christmas Day, they will just as easily sell on subsequent days. It just seems unnecessary commercialism and very regrettable.’