Consumers play catch-up as festive shopping surges
SHOPPERS throughout the country are making up for lost time after the cold spell grounded them for two weeks.
Although Central Statistics Office figures show a drop in consumer demand for the third quarter of the year, retailers say there has been a rebound in the last few days that could save the Christmas retail season.
Chambers Ireland said that their members in Galway, Limerick and Cork were all reporting strong pent-up demand as customers belatedly started their festive shopping.
"It is too early to say whether everyone will make up on the losses of the last couple of weeks but shops tell us they are busy and welcoming customers," said deputy chief executive Sean Murphy.
Most large retailers around the country were opting to open on St Stephen's Day to maximise business as it had proved a winner for those who did so last year, he said.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce said that shopping had intensified since the thaw.
"Everyone got back up and running and there has been more intensified shopping," said spokesman Patrick King.
Given the circumstances, retailers were simply hoping to meet their targets for sales this month rather than exceeding them, he noted.
Arnotts chief executive Nigel Blow said sales were improving this week.
"Yes, shoppers are making up for lost time and we are trading very strongly. We are slightly behind on last year but we are catching up and, weather permitting, we are confident of a strong performance between now and Christmas," he said.
Debenhams, which operates 11 department stores around the country, said that the Christmas rush had started straight after the thaw and sales were now quite strong.
"We were fortunate as well that we had launched our online site in November as consumers are turning in that direction anyway because it's easier to shop around online," said marketing manager Karen Nason.
Louis Copeland, who owns six menswear shops in Dublin and Galway, said that business was up on this time last year.
"It's too early yet to tell whether we'll make up for lost time, but if you compared today with the same day last year we would definitely be up."
"There's a buzz out there and the traffic numbers into town are up. I think after the Budget and the IMF, people felt at least they knew where they were -- nobody died after all," he said.
December and January are the two biggest months for generating VAT, meaning the Government will also be counting on shoppers stepping up their spending over the remaining eight shopping days until Christmas.
Dundrum Town Centre director Don Nugent said business in the first three days of this week was up 5.5pc on last year.
Some stores such as Penneys and Boots were opening until midnight this week in a bid to claw back business, and others would do so next week, while anecdotal evidence suggested people were buying more than normal on their visits.