Thursday 23 January 2020

Streets still buzzing despite online threat now taking 30pc of sales, say retailers

Festive cheer: There has been a healthy footfall of shoppers this Christmas
Festive cheer: There has been a healthy footfall of shoppers this Christmas

Allison Bray

Streets were still bustling with traditional Christmas shoppers this year even though online sales - especially by overseas retailers - are siphoning off about 30pc of overall sales, according to a retailers group.

While retailers in cities, towns and shopping centres are seeing a healthy footfall this Christmas - translating to an increase of about 1.4pc in sales compared with 2018 - retailers cannot be complacent about the ongoing threat from online sales, according to JP Kennedy, commercial director for Retail Excellence Ireland.

"It's good but it's not manic and it won't be a record Christmas," he told the Irish Independent. "Flat is the word I'm hearing."

He said the threat from online shopping cannot be ignored.

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While about 70pc of consumers still shop at bricks and mortar shops, "there are young consumers out there who live on the phone", he said.

"Over the past five years, between 60pc and 70pc of online spend is outside of Irish businesses."

The presence of large multinational online retailers such as Amazon is responsible for a significant leakage from the Irish economy, he said.

And recent retail trends, such as the emergence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, means many items that would otherwise be sold at large discounts on St Stephen's Day are already bought weeks in advance of Christmas, explained Mr Kennedy. "It does have a cannibalising effect," he said.

But he said retailers were holding their heads above water and campaigns to shop locally were helping to keep money in local tills.

Anthony Ryan, managing director of Anthony Ryan's department store in Galway, said while the pre-Christmas shopping period had been good, "the big money comes out after Christmas, especially for the big ticket items".

"We're expecting very strong post-Christmas business," he said of the St Stephen's Day and January sales.

"We find a lot of people shop online at Christmas but the vast majority is still bricks and mortar sales."

Last-minute shoppers will have to contend with a few showers this morning before sunny spells emerge in the afternoon. However, it will feel cold with top temperatures of 5C to 8C generally, higher near the south coast.

Met Éireann said Christmas Day would start cold and frosty with mist and fog patches clearing. It will be mostly dry for daylight hours before rain develops in parts of Connacht and Munster after dark. Highest temperatures will reach just 3C to 6C, but near the south coast it could reach 8C.

St Stephen's Day will be mild but with outbreaks of rain, some of which could be heavy. Winds could be strong to gale force near some coasts. However, the national forecaster said the exact details were not clear due to uncertainty in the track of a low pressure system.

Meanwhile, Dublin Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe and Office of Public Works Minister Kevin 'Boxer' Moran praised the success of the inaugural 'Christmas at the Castle' event at Dublin Castle which saw more than 275,000 visitors attend the market and tours of the historic site.

Irish Independent

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