Retailers banking on last-minute festive rush to boost lagging sales
Retailers are hoping a last-minute rush by shoppers to snap up Christmas gifts will shore up sales that are currently lagging behind the 2012 festive season.
The head of industry group Retail Excellence Ireland, David Fitzsimons, said the sector remains "bullish" and that the final few days of the busiest shopping period of the year will deliver the injection needed to perk up sales.
"Currently retailers are behind now compared to where they would have been during the 2012 season," he said. But he pointed out that much of that is down to a number of factors that will play out in the next few days.
Shoppers have been putting their gift buying on the long finger, as many of them will break from work tomorrow for Christmas and won't start buying in earnest until the weekend, according to Mr Fitzsimons. Also, many consumers will get paid tomorrow, so they may have delayed purchases.
Last weekend was a "washout" for retailers, said Mr Fitzsimons. Poor weather resulted in footfall being between 20pc and 25pc lower than would have been expected, he said.
He said the outcome for this season really can't be called until Christmas Eve. But some retailers are already reporting that Christmas trading in 2013 will be the best in years.
Noel Coyle, the chief executive of Fields Jewellers, which has stores around the country, said he's positive about trading so far. "There's a broad uplift and we're certainly encouraged by the trading pattern," he said.
Mr Coyle added that this Christmas is likely to be the best in a number of years for the group, and that the better performance looks set to continue into 2014.
Geoff Scully, the head of the Irish arm of online retailer Littlewoods, said the business is on track to record its best Christmas trading since 2008. He said that's been influenced by a number of changes the retailer made, such as allowing consumers to return goods by post for free, and also altering its pricing strategy.
He said that Littlewoods Ireland sales are up about 20pc in the last seven weeks compared to the corresponding period last year.
"All of the items you'd expect to sell well at this time of year are doing so, such as electricals, but we're selling a lot of clothing and footwear too," he said.