Shops resort to early sales to beat chill
RETAILERS have resorted to "stealth sales" to drum up business after a tough Christmas trading period so far -- and this weekend's second cold snap couldn't have come at a worse time.
Sales of ladies' fashions have taken a particular hammering because of the cancellation of workplace Christmas parties.
The volume of sales in the major retail outlets around the country and Dublin city-centre did bounce this week after a flat start to December as consumers tried to beat the expected bad weather.
But one prominent retailer who spoke to the Sunday Independent was despondent.
"People didn't start shopping until after the Budget and then there was the cold snap to contend with. We will never get those sales back.
"Irish women are canny shoppers. If they don't have an occasion to go to they won't buy that special outfit. They will make do. And this isn't exactly the weather to wear a party frock anyway.
"It seems even if there is an office night out they will dress for comfort and warmth rather than style," he said.
Last week there were significant reductions across the board by leading retailers.
It means that there may not be the usual massive savings to be had in the post-Christmas sales. Some retailers have bitten the bullet and trumpeted huge discounts in the run-up to Christmas.
Seagreen in Monkstown began its sale this week with 40 per cent reductions on high-end labels like Paul & Joe, Tibi, Alice and Jaeger. Clarks, the shoe store is offering discounts of up to 50 per cent.
Pamela Scott has at least 20 per cent off this weekend only. Aldo has up to 50 per cent off and Awear is offering half price on footwear and on a large range of clothing in the store.
The Coast winter sale with up to 50 per cent off began last Tuesday across a wide range of accessories and jewellery.
Other big-name boutiques including Havana, Diffusion, Samui in Cork and Les Jumelles in Galway have all gone into sale mode.
For the last two weekends, Brown Thomas has offered 20 per cent discounts and more off everything, except for some of the concessions.
Many other stores are offering sales by stealth. There are no billboards or sales tickets on the front windows, but goods inside are being heavily discounted.
Dundrum Town Centre will swing open its doors to die-hard shopaholics on St Stephen's Day for the start of the sales including top stores Harvey Nichols, House of Fraser and Next.
"Last year we were delighted to welcome lots of eager shoppers through our doors on St Stephen's Day and we expect this year to be no different," said Dundrum Town Centre Director, Don Nugent.
"Dundrum Town Centre opens its doors at 10am and stores will be offering great offers and discounts. This year, more than ever, shoppers are seeking out those bargains and there will be plenty on offer here at Dundrum".
The centre will be open from 10am until 6pm with the majority of stores starting their sales. Restaurants and bars will also be open.
Meanwhile, the Annual Competitiveness Report for 2010 has pinpointed the problems faced by retailers locked into high rents.
"The ban on upward-only rent-review clauses in business leases is a positive development. However, many companies are tied into long leases with no opportunity to renegotiate the terms, so recent developments will mainly benefit new and expanding or relocating firms," the report states.
"It is vital that actions taken by the Government, NAMA and the banking sector support an appropriate adjustment in property prices to the levels justified by their underlying potential for adding value or earning rent. Falling land and property prices do not reduce the necessity for structural change in respect of land planning."