€200m sales splurge as tech and clothes slashed by 60pc
Never been a better time to be an Irish shopper
There has never been a better time to be an Irish shopper, retailers admitted as they slash prices by 60pc or more to entice consumers back to main street.
After a tough retail season, big ticket items, including TVs and laptops, are expected to see major reductions in the sales that kick off in earnest today.
Footwear and women's clothing - particularly designer labels - are also set to see major price cuts.
Shoppers have already spent millions online over Christmas with many retailers kicking off their digital sales early.
Retail Excellence expects shoppers to splash around €200m across Stephen's Day - with the bulk being spent on groceries and hospitality.
A price war is set to get under way among major clothing stores and grocery shops as each tries to compete to boost their final season sales.
A combination of factors means the sales reductions this year are likely to be some of the deepest ever seen.
Black Friday means prices have already been slashed since late November.
The increased competition of online sales, the drop in sterling, plus bad weather hitting footfall, means retailers have stock to clear.
Director of Retail Ireland Thomas Burke said: "Increased disposable income and a growing number of people in work means it is a great time to be an Irish shopper.
"Allied to this, goods prices are now down almost 10pc since 2013 as competition between retailers has driven prices back to Christmas 1999 levels. Retailers are hoping this will entice more consumer spend and translate into valuable sales in the coming days."
He told the Irish Independent: "We could be looking at 60pc discounts and 40pc to 50pc off footwear and across a variety of categories in one store. Electronic items like TVs are likely to see strong discounts, but of course there's a balance to be struck given trading challenges."
Online shopping has grown rapidly in 2018, affecting Irish retailers as 70pc of the online spend has been going to foreign businesses.
Retail Ireland, part of Ibec, said the next four days were crucial to determining whether the Christmas season could be dubbed a success after a tough couple of months.
"It's been a really strange Christmas season which has seen discounts from Black Friday onward," Mr Burke said.
"Normally we'd only expect to see the level of discounts that have been offered post-Christmas but this year it's (sales have) been pulled forward, particularly on footwear and women's fashion.
"I think Stephen's Day will be a very big day. There have been challenges but we have to overcome those and the indication is that things are going reasonably well for Irish retailers."
Earlier this year, the group indicated an increase in consumer spending in the region of 3pc over the Christmas period. However, latest reports suggested that sales were on a par with last year.
If a high level of shoppers hit the streets today, it would significantly boost sales.
It added that the Government needs to reduce business costs and most especially the headline VAT rate of 23pc if retailers are to compete in what is now a global marketplace.
Meanwhile, Retail Excellence will meet with Met Éireann in the new year to discuss the negative impact weather alerts have on footfall.
It said it was normal for footfall to dissipate by 12pc on a bad weather day, but the declines doubled when Met Éireann issued an alert.
The forecaster has defended the need for it to issue weather warnings - despite the criticism from retailers.
Commenting on the report, David Fitzsimons, group chief executive of Retail Excellence, said: "The last five days to Christmas Eve have traded well with the extra day an added bonus and the psychology of having three full shopping days before Christmas Day, when most people were on annual leave, did have a very positive impact on footfall and spending.
"However, the retail environment this Christmas has been very challenging with most sectors recording little change from the same period in 2017."
Separately, it emerged that rude customers and panic buyers are the chief causes of stress for shop staff during the sales rush.
The research was conducted by Adoreboard, an analytics firm based at Queen's University, Belfast.
Rude customers were the chief source of stress for shop staff, with 70pc of respondents saying bad manners were most likely to put them in a foul mood.
Long queues and panic shoppers were the two other main causes of concern.