Monday 25 March 2019

Shops to enjoy €130m spending spree today

Retailers hoping for a timely sales boost after disappointing run-up to Christmas

Christmas shoppers in the English Market, Cork city. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney
Christmas shoppers in the English Market, Cork city. Photo: Daragh Mc Sweeney
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Shoppers are set to part with more than €130m today as the festive sales period will see cash tills ringing across the country.

Retailers will be hoping bumper sales give them a much-needed boost after a poorer than anticipated lead-up to Christmas.

Consumers will loosen the purse strings as improved consumer sentiment, jobs growth and more money in people's pockets all play a factor.

The total spend is likely to outstrip last year, as more than €130m could be forked out by bargain hunters across the country.

Shop owners could also be in line for a Brexit bonus as retail experts predict the improved value of sterling will make cross-Border shopping less attractive.

The deputy CEO of Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), Lorraine Higgins, says retailers will be aiming to lure shoppers with big sales from today onwards.

Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin over Christmas. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Shoppers on Grafton Street in Dublin over Christmas. Photo: Doug O’Connor

However, REI says that the sector endured a "less than robust final week" leading up to Christmas, which has hit the bottom line.

The agency cited Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday as having a negative impact on spending.

"I'd be cautionary about it but I would say 5pc [increase in sales on last year]," Ms Higgins said. "It would be a single-digit increase on last year.

"Jewellery, footwear, children's clothes would all have performed well. But the aggressive marketing all impacted on it."

It is understood that the busiest ever Black Friday ate into a large proportion of the conventional Christmas demand.

The online demand has also had an impact on high-street retailers, with logistic companies reporting a rise of 40pc in online packages.

However, Dublin city centre is likely to see a boost from the introduction of the cross-city Luas in the post-Christmas sales.

Ms Higgins said the improved transport links would attract people who may previously have avoided the hustle and bustle of the city.

"With the Luas cross-city being opened, you would hope that would drive increased footfall into the city centre. It's a positive factor," she said.

"Aesthetically, the city centre has improved a lot with the completion of Luas cross-city. It's more inviting and attractive for shoppers.

"There's been a lot of new shopping streets created as a result of this."

Dublin Town CEO Richard Guiney also backed this sentiment.

"Our surveys would suggest that people would be more intent on visiting the city since the Luas is now finished," he said.

"Footfall in the city is down on last year. The footfall is increasing post-5pm and decreasing before 5pm."

Meanwhile Conor Healy, of the Cork Chamber of Commerce, said that business owners in the city were confident of a strong festive sales period.

"Speaking with members and businesses in town, it looks good across both retail and hospitality," he said. "There's a lot of confidence there and hopefully that'll carry us into the post-Christmas sales."

Mr Healy added that, similar to Dublin, shoppers were coming into the city as a family oriented day.

Graeme Mulqueen, of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said that the capital had evolved in the past decade.

He said that a significant amount of money was now being spent on food and drinks as part of the shopping experience, adding that consumers were staying in the city longer.

Mr Mulqueen said that he expected about €70m to be spent by shoppers in Dublin alone.

However, he did say that people were still on the hunt for a bargain. "Nobody is getting carried away with themselves," he said.

"There's still caution and that's a good thing.

"People still want to feel like they're getting something that they really want.

"If consumers are spending, you'd like to think it's from their own pocket."

Meanwhile, Ms Higgins told the Irish Independent that, over the past 12 months, the impact of Brexit has been negative for Irish retail, with weak sterling making cross-Border shopping more appealing.

However, she says that with more certainty around the UK leaving the EU, the cost for those in the Republic to do their shopping in the North will make it a less enticing prospect.

"Brexit had an impact in a negative sense, but since the deal has been done with the EU, Ireland and the UK, we've seen a strengthening of sterling," Ms Higgins said.

Irish Independent

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