Retailers hope Black Friday will spark shopping spree
THIS will be the biggest shopping weekend of the year so far, with retailers hoping it will kickstart a Christmas splurge worth over €1bn.
Shoppers are expected to spend €74m this weekend on online purchases alone, while Christmas fairs and markets countrywide aim to attract hundreds of thousands of consumers out to spend even more.
Dozens of retailers are this weekend offering "Black Friday" discounts and sales promotions aimed at getting the festive spending spree going. Retail Excellence Ireland and the Irish Chambers of Commerce said the next 30 days will be crucial for many Irish high street shops.
REI chief executive David Fitzsimons said retailers had to work very hard for sales from Irish shoppers who, after years of austerity, were now intensely value-focused.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce spokesman Graeme McQueen said there were already signs of sales ramping up for the weekend.
"It's payday for most people, and there's a bit of a buzz out there with all the Black Friday offers in the shops," he said.
"The Christmas trees are up, the Christmas parties are starting and there's a sense that it's time to get going with the shopping," he said.
Arnotts, Boots, Currys, Dunnes, Kilkenny and Clarks are among the many retailers with sales promotions on this weekend, both online and in high street stores, while shoppers on British sites from Amazon to Asos and Topshop can also bag bargains.
Visa Europe said that there would be around one million online purchases by Irish consumers between today and "Cyber Monday" on December 1, traditionally the busiest online shopping day of the year. "Over the course of the month of December alone, Irish online shoppers will ring up seven million eCommerce transactions with their Visa cards, bringing the total level of eCommerce spending over the four-week period to €474m," Visa said.
Cities and towns have also invested heavily in special markets, Yuletide fairs and parking initiatives to entice shoppers in to shop.
Donal Healy of the Cork Business Association said Christmas sales had never been so crucial.
"For many smaller retailers the trading over the next month or so might make the difference between making it to Christmas 2015 or not," he said.
Ireland's main Christmas shopping day was traditionally December 8, but trade is now spread out over a longer period with major festivals to lure in shoppers.
In Cork, the Christmas 'Glow' Festival being launched today boasts a giant Ferris wheel, a German-style Christmas market, a 'faery' village for children and Yuletide choral shows.
Cork City Council was hopeful it would match last year, when almost 200,000 visitors attended.
"It is a very important reason for people to come into the city and hopefully to support the shops, restaurants, pubs and cafes by spending their money here," said council official Valerie O'Sullivan.
The organisers of Waterford's Winterval event are hoping it will attract half a million tourists over five weeks to attractions including sleigh rides, a Viking 'Yule' village, an ice-rink, a toy museum and a German-style Christmas market.