Big stores get sales boost but smaller retailers still fear worst
BUMPER Christmas sales have resulted in some of the country's major stores running low on stock.
However, despite the festive footfall in large department stores, groups representing smaller retailers predict many of them will be forced to close shop early next year.
Small retailers say they are losing customers to large stores where there is more choice and greater competition.
This was evident yesterday with reports from major stores that bargain hunters are snapping up scores of goods.
"We are actually nearly out of stock," said Valerie Forde, marketing manager of Harvey Nichols, Dublin.
"We opened on St Stephen's Day for the sale and we are out of nearly everything.
"You are comparing it with the snow last year but I think people will still invest in nice gifts and people will still invest in occasion wear."
Brown Thomas, with seven stores around the country, agreed, having experienced strong sales in its fashion accessories.
"We expect more than 50pc of men's and women's fashions to be gone and 75pc of accessories," said managing director Stephen Sealy, who said the sale could be wrapped up by January 9.
Overall the Dundrum Town Centre estimated footfall to be up by 20pc on last year.
"If retailers don't overstock then the chances are they will get rid of it," said Jeanette Jordan, the centre's marketing manager.
"I wouldn't imagine that the sales will continue for much longer this year because I would imagine that the stock levels aren't there."
A survey of businesses over the festive period, released yesterday, noted a significant increase in spending on last year which suffered from terrible weather conditions.
"The good pre- and post-Christmas figures are welcome but this year's sales are being compared with a disastrous Christmas last year," said Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam.
The IBEC-linked group said that Christmas sales figures last year were down 4pc on 2009 but it believes this year's will far exceed 2010.
A full breakdown will not be available until the end of next month.
Long queues, free spending and satisfied customers have been a common sight over the last few days -- but many believe that 2012 will be a very tough year for Irish retailers as budget cuts bite and households cut back further.
A survey undertaken last month by Retail Ireland -- which represents around 3,000 shops from major household names to small businesses -- found that well over two-thirds of its members believe the business environment in Ireland would be "poor or very poor" in three months' time.
Nearly half (42pc) are now less optimistic about their prospects than they were in the past three months and 73pc are anticipating a further erosion of profits.
"These figures are not surprising. Consumer sentiment is poor and retail businesses are struggling; many may close early next year," said Mr Lynam.