Pressure on retailers to compete with Black Friday bargains
Shoppers can expect huge bargains over the coming weeks as Irish stores ramp up to compete with the rise of 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday' sales.
Consumers are spending more now than they have in several years, but most are still not prepared to pay full price and are seeking bargains, according to retail experts.
Retail Excellence Ireland is urging the thousands of stores it represents to make sure their special offers, websites and delivery systems are ready for the coming weeks.
It's mainly because customers now expect significant discounts of 30pc to 50pc after the massive success of Black Friday, a marketing drive imported from America.
The new trend took many Irish retailers by surprise last year, according to REI chief executive David Fitzsimons.
"It's probably the last thing retailers need at this time of year, to start offering deep discounts - but it's what consumers expect," he said.
"So if you want to get them in your door or on to your website, then you'd better have something to offer."
They issued an advisory memo to members this week warning them to prepare their websites for a huge surge in business around Black Friday on November 27, and Cyber Monday on November 30.
A favourable Budget and more people working means the retail market is stronger than it has been in years.
A report by Webloyalty this week predicted that spending would soar by 31pc to €109m on Black Friday this year, with half of Irish people expecting to shop that day - electronics, home appliances and clothes being the most popular buys.
However, in the UK many big brands - including Tesco, Currys, Boots and Argos - saw their websites crash as a result of the surge in traffic last year. Retailers must plan to avoid this, said Mr Fitzsimons.
Stores are still keeping mum on the details of Black Friday discounts, but big operators such as Harvey Norman and Debenhams confirmed they were focused on this as the major pre-Christmas sales opportunity.
Arnotts said it did not have its Black Friday offers finalised "but will be doing offers across all departments, both in-store and online, especially in the homewares and electrical departments".
Arnotts' Christmas trading was marginally ahead of last year, but its Christmas shop was busier.
Its festive windows will be opened on Monday.
Argos said it would be offering "great deals and bargains across a range of products" on Black Friday, but details would not be available until that week.
Big ticket discounts on a select number of items was the most likely approach by retailers this year, with the sales period likely to stretch over a full week, said Graeme McQueen of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.
Judging by the number of promotions already in place, the signs were that Irish consumers still needed to be persuaded to buy, he said.
"While there has been something of a return to paying full price in the UK, that doesn't seem to have happened in Ireland yet, and sales have become almost a year-round activity - particularly in clothes shops," he added.
"Big, attention-grabbing discounts is probably the way they'll go for Black Friday to get people in, and they'll be hoping that will get Christmas spending into full swing."
The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office shows that retail sales were 8.6pc higher in September than a year earlier.
However, the amount of money spent did not rise as much - as stores were still being forced to discount prices.