Handbags at the ready as thousands to make dawn start for sales blitz

THOUSANDS of bargain hunters are expected to hit the streets at the crack of dawn on St Stephen's Day for the annual post-Christmas sales.

Queues are expected to form early as some of the larger department stores open their doors at 8am with offers of 50pc off on many items.

Retailers are hoping the sales will build on the success of yesterday's pre- Christmas surge, which resulted in the busiest shopping day in five years.

Meanwhile, retailers reported a marginal increase in sales volumes over last Christmas of between 1-3pc, according to Retail Excellence Ireland (REI).

Yesterday and Saturday were the busiest shopping days of the past five years, added REI's director Stephen Lynam.

Debenhams is promising its customers savings of more than €15m at its 11 stores nationwide, which will open at 8am on Wednesday with reductions of 50pc on winter fashions.

Stampede

Early bird specials include 75pc off a Tripp suitcase for €48 and a Karl Jackson navy stripe suit marked down to €85 from €204. Not to be outdone, Arnotts is also offering 50pc off on all kitchens, carpets, curtains and linens. But it is bracing itself more for a stampede of fashionistas into its "Shoe Garden", where 30,000 pairs of shoes will go on sale at up to 50pc off at 9am.

Around 5,000 handbags by popular designers will also be slashed by up to 50pc.

"We expect a queue of about 100 to 150 on Henry Street, the whole length of the street," said Arnotts retail director Leesa Kavanagh. "The big rush will be for bags and shoes and electrical stuff."

Most retailers now open on St Stephen's Day, a trend that began about three years ago.

"Stephen's Day has turned out to be one of the busiest days of the year," Ms Kavanagh added. Brown Thomas is also expecting large crowds outside its flagship store on Grafton Street, in Dublin, as well as outlets in Limerick and Galway when it opens at 9am; and 10am at its BT2 shops in Dundrum and Blanchardstown.

Reductions of 60pc are on offer on all ladies', men's and children's fashions as well as accessories, footwear, lingerie and homeware.

But those who'd rather have a lie-in on St Stephen's Day can get in on the sales action early when Marks & Spencer starts its online sale on Christmas Day.

Its offering up to 50pc off fashion, accessories, lingerie, shoes, beauty products and children's wear as well as homeware. Many other retailers are also offering pre-Christmas deals on their websites, according to cashback website Fat.Cheese.ie.

Co-founder Ahmed Zaman said: "Many of the retailers we work with already have their post-Christmas sales ready to roll out and this will happen from Christmas Eve, across Christmas Day and then on to St Stephen's Day. In many cases, they will have more stock dedicated to their online retailers than they will in their shops."

The fact that Christmas is on a Tuesday this year was a big boost to sales at the weekend, while continuing unrest in Belfast has led to a huge increase in the number of Northern Ireland shoppers in the Republic.

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