€129m splurge as shoppers loosen pursestrings
Published 25/12/2015 | 00:10
Shoppers splurged a staggering €129m every day this month - or €5m every hour - as retailers enjoyed the busiest festive period for seven years.
But while the general outlook is positive, experts warn ed Ireland's "two-tier" economic recovery was reflected in spending patterns across the country.
Both daytime and evening shopping in Dublin proved robust and most sectors traded exceptionally well.
However, parts of provincial Ireland were left behind in the seasonal spending surge, with some small-town retailers reporting weak footfall
Overall, Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) predicted that Christmas trade could be up 5pc by the end of 2015, compared with last year.
When it comes to food, families across the country were set to spend almost €550m - over €34m more than last year.
Sources say this significant growth marked a significant turnaround in business, as consumers loosened the purse strings, and confidence returned to the economy.
But overall spending was still behind the high point of the Celtic Tiger - and all sectors reported that shoppers remain extremely cautious with their cash.
Major cities - particularly Dublin, Cork and Galway - enjoyed the biggest boost in Christmas spending.
The retail recovery continued to be dominated by furniture retailers and home accessories outlets, with computers and electronics providers also doing well.
Lynn Drumgoole, head of public affairs at REI, pointed out that bad weather in recent weeks had added to the woes of many shop owners.
But despite this drop in footfall, there were also other factors which were a boost to trade.
"The value of the average transaction has increased across all sectors, and that's where the uplift is coming from.
"And the fact that so many people travelled home this Christmas from overseas has certainly contributed to a general rise in consumer spend,'' she said.
"Dublin Airport has been very busy, and many people brought a shopping list with them, to make their purchases in Ireland, which is great."
If current trends continue, the uplift in overall sales may top 5pc by the end of the year, she added.
"In previous years people would have wanted to have everything before Christmas, but now a significant number are willing to postpone their purchasing until the sales.
"However, there have been quite a few discounts available in the run-up to Christmas.''
This means that after the festive season there should be "exceptional discounts'' available, she suggested.
Ms Drumgoole said 2015 was a "milestone year" for retailers, because of the numbers shopping online.
"Since Black Friday we noticed online activity was particularly strong - although before that it was quite sluggish," she added.
Armchair shoppers who can't wait until the traditional St Stephen's Day sales are
expected to be parting with their cash on Christmas Day, she said.
Growth is being driven by a rise in the popularity of tablet computers, which make shopping from the sofa an attractive option for many.
"If Christmas Day shopping online is going to take off, it will happen this year because it has been a very strong market since the end of November.
"Therefore it's important retailers make their presence felt online, because so many people research products in this way before going in-store to make a purchase.''
And while the overall sales activity has improved, she stressed "value for money'' remains a key priority for the majority of shoppers.
Retail Ireland is currently forecasting retail sales of €4.05 billion for Christmas 2015, up 3.5pc over last year's festive period.