Retailers hope for last-minute rush by cautious shoppers
RETAILERS were left disappointed as cautious shoppers chose not to splurge on what is traditionally the biggest spending weekend of the year.
They are still praying for a Christmas miracle in the hope that a last-minute rush will give them a significant boost -- despite foul weather and the growth of online sales.
Christmas spending is on par with, or up slightly, compared with this time last year -- but retailers were hoping for a weekend sales boost.
"It is a little bit disappointing," said chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, David Fitzsimons.
"Several signs such as the Budget moving into October, the exit of troika, and the improvement in consumer sentiment, would have pointed to a little bit of positive growth.
"But what's happened is we've just changed as consumers. Even if we have money in our pocket, we've taught ourselves to behave differently.
"We are a little more frugal and are able to postpone spending for the sales."
However, he said it was not all doom and gloom.
"The major urban cities did reasonably well over the weekend and what we'll see over the next couple of days is provincial Ireland doing well. People normally do their big destination shops around now and will do top-up shopping locally. So we'll see a big surge in footfall and in shopper activity in over the next few days."
Don Nugent, director at Dundrum Town Centre, said there was cause for positivity as footfall into the centre exceeded predicted numbers.
"We've had strong trading this weekend and footfall is good," he said.
The way Christmas falls this year is a boost to retailers, he added. "This week will be in line with last year's numbers, but tomorrow really is an extra day. Monday last year was Christmas Eve so that is important for retailers.
"By the time we get through the week that's coming up, we expect that our footfall will be up about 2pc on last year."
Maria Kelly, CEO of Limerick Chamber, said shoppers were out in force over the weekend.
"The early Budget certainly had an impact. There were huge crowds in the city with long queues for car parks and queues going into the city which is positive. Certainly in the lead-up to this weekend it was better than this time last year."
Ms Kelly said online shopping was drawing some business away from the high street and Irish retailers needed to catch up.