Stores slashing prices for sales
Disastrous big freeze forces retailers to reduce items by 70%
Bargain-hunters can look forward to the biggest post-Christmas sales in a decade as retailers slash prices by as much as 70 per cent to make up for the big freeze disaster during the festive season.
People gave up on trying to get all their Christmas shopping as icy conditions forced thousands to stay at home.
Ironically, smaller shops including grocery, high-end fashion and giftware did have a good pre-Christmas as consumers decided to "shop local" rather than brave dangerous roads and crowded icy footpaths in urban centres.
The value of sales for 2010 was already expected to be down 25 per cent on figures for 2007, but the stop-start Christmas season left many retailers frustrated and with huge quantities of stock that they will try to sell in the sales.
They hope bumper offerings starting today will coincide with a rapid thaw after three weeks of sub-zero temperatures.
Retailers had been hoping to end the year on a high, but the wintry weather had a negative impact on expected consumer footfall. But retailers are nothing if not resilient.
Alan Kelly of Gentlemen Please in Blackrock, south Co Dublin, actually took on an extra member of staff as a result of the freeze in the last few frenetic days before Christmas.
"Patrick is basically a doorman in the old-fashioned sense and he kept the footpath clear of snow and ice and basically worked as an extra pair of hands for our customers, helping them find a parking space and then dropping shopping bags to the car for customers," said Mr Kelly.
In another innovation, he sent his regular clients emails with photos of suggested gifts in the right sizes.
"It means ladies who were buying something for the man in their life could order over the phone and in the run-up to the big day, presents were hand-delivered," Mr Kelly said.
He said that retailers had to make the best of it and his sale was starting tomorrow, December 27, at 11am. Among the items on sale are coats by Marithe et Francois Girbaud at €295, down from €1,295.
December 2010 has been the weakest period of trading for the retail sector in recent history following significant blows to the industry including Budget 2011 and abject consumer sentiment.
The bad weather stalled consumer activity and purchasing. David Fitzsimons, chief executive, Retail Excellence Ireland, said: "The retail industry was hit with the perfect storm. If IMF intervention and a very severe Budget were not enough, the arrival of arctic conditions minimised shopping activity and left many of the largest destination shopping centres and cities near empty."
Retailers in the worst distress are those in the primary shopping centres and retail park locations. Dublin was hit very severely and now they will be seeking to generate revenue with bumper sales.
It's not just an Irish phenomenon. British retailers put pre-Christmas losses from bad weather at €1bn.
As well in Dublin, some of the biggest stores in Cork city will follow suit in a bid to generate extra sales.
Debenhams stores will open today to kickstart their seasonal sales. All stores will open their doors at 11am.
Michael Sharp, deputy chief executive at Debenhams, said: "We are doing it bigger than ever this year, bringing discounts of up to 70 per cent to bargain-hungry shoppers across Ireland."
Torlach Denihan of Retail Ireland said the pre-Christmas weather made survival all but impossible for many.
"There will be closures, undoubtedly. Many of them would have happened anyway but the weather tightened the noose around the necks of some businesses."
And it's not just the retail sector which suffered. The hospitality trade, including hotels, restaurants and pubs, was hit with a wave of cancellations of Christmas parties. They are now hoping they will be rearranged for January.
At the Maryborough Hotel in Cork city last week, snowed-in revellers who were trapped in the hotel by a sudden blizzard were given free board at the upmarket spa hotel in Douglas.
"We had plenty to eat and drink and a nice warm atmosphere," said marketing manager Mary Bernard.