December 8th no longer sacred for festive shopping
Black Friday and online sales overtake traditional trip to town
Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the huge growth in online retail have been blamed for the loss of one of Ireland's great traditions, the December 8th shopping bonanza.
Yesterday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a day when traditionally people from across the country would flock to the capital to buy those gifts they couldn't find in their local town. But this year, the December 8th shopping frenzy may have been overtaken by Black Friday.
Graeme McQueen, Dublin Chamber of Commerce Head of Public Affairs, said: "The importance of the 8th for retailers has changed significantly in recent years. Black Friday, which this year was a week-long event for most Dublin retailers, is now the focal point of the pre-Christmas shopping period."
Where once the capital's streets would have been thronged yesterday with shoppers and families excitedly queuing to see Santa, Dublin retailers expected to see only a small rise in footfall for December 8th when figures are collated early this week.
The tradition of going to Dublin on December 8th is thought to have started in the early 1940s when Denis Guiney took over Clerys department store and offered a refund on all travel tickets to customers who spent more than £5 in his store.
Mr McQueen said: "It's fair to say it's not what it used to be. Shoppers are now much more savvy and have a lot of options, including online."
He added: "It's shaping up to be a good Christmas and we're expecting sales levels to be at their highest in over a decade. The Black Friday period provided a good start for many retailers. We're expecting that to continue for the rest of December. The main reasons for the strong performance and optimistic outlook are a general improvement in disposable incomes and also the fact there are now more people in the workforce looking to spend. There's a general buoyancy in Dublin and we expect that to be reflected in sales."
A surge in plastic payments processed on Black Friday show it to be the new big pre-Christmas shopping day.
A snapshot of data from AIB showed 3,500 transactions per minute were carried out on debit cards alone on Black Friday - a rise of 17pc on the same day last year. Of these payments, E-commerce (online and phone purchases) grew by 25pc in value, and Point of Sale (shops) showed growth of 10pc both in value and volume.
Further peaks in sales are predicted for Friday December 21, when many people finish work, and the usual Christmas Eve panic-buying when AIB expect transactions to exceed 4,000 per minute.
An AIB spokesman said: "December 8th was traditionally a focal point for shoppers, but it is now just another shopping day. It is estimated that Irish households will each spend an average of €2,690 on shopping this December - a 3pc rise on last year."