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'Best Christmas in years' for stores as shoppers splash out

RETAILERS are having their best Christmas in years, with hundreds of thousands of consumers set to descend on the shops this weekend.

Good weather and the fact many people were paid yesterday are expected to boost numbers as stores gear up for a hectic countdown to the big day.

Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) said sales were also being boosted by an influx of shoppers from Northern Ireland because of a favourable exchange rate and trouble in Belfast.

"Consumer electronics are flying out of the shops, luxury fashion is doing well, food is robust and smartphones are huge," said its chief executive David Fitzsimons.

"All the indications are that Saturday will be the busiest day of the last five years – the weather is fine, people have just been paid and there was a lot of postponement of buying till after the Budget," he added.

REI was pretty confident that Christmas sales overall would be well up on last year, though spending on toys and books was down, he said.

Ibec's retail division said most retailers – with the exception of book sellers – were reporting sales on a par or up on last year, with "everything to play for" this weekend.

"This weekend should be big and that would make it the biggest year since 2008," said its director Stephen Lynam.

Tablet computer sales are up a staggering 1,000pc on this time last year, said Tim Hannon of the Harvey Norman chain.

"It's the fact that they start from €97. Everyone from kids to grannies and grandads are getting them," he said. "Footfall is up and business is good, it's better than last year, and if the snow stays away that will continue."

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This weekend would only be rivalled by next weekend when the winter sales were in full swing, he said.

Smyths Toy Stores said they expected a huge sales surge today. "Today will definitely be our busiest Saturday of the year as parents stock up on last-minute presents," said spokesman Rob McGuckian.

Business at Dundrum Town Centre so far this year was up 1pc on last year, and this weekend was expected to be very busy, said marketing manager Jeanette Walter.


AA Roadwatch advised drivers that roads would be much busier than usual.

"This is the weekend of last-minute shopping, of visiting and final journeys home," said AA Roadwatch head Aoife Carragher.

"Town centres across the country can expect increased volumes as shoppers descend to buy the last litre of milk in the land," she added.

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