Monday 18 December 2017

Shoppers brave sub-zero night in search of bargains

Stores pull out all stops to clear stock

Mary Byrne opened the Arnotts sale. Photo: Steve Humphreys.
Mary Byrne opened the Arnotts sale. Photo: Steve Humphreys.

A MIXTURE of cabin fever and strategic shopping for 2011 brought thousands of bargain hunters out for the annual sales.

There have been widespread discounts since even before Christmas as retailers battled with icy weather and tough trading conditions. Yesterday shoppers queued to enjoy discounts of up to 70pc, with many big-ticket bargains as retailers cleared old stock.

There was a time when men queued for reduced price golf clubs, but now it's American style fridges and widescreen televisions that attract them. Four friends from Mongolia took up their positions in the Arnotts queue in Dublin at 2am on Christmas Day. No less than 32 hours later, they were rewarded with double-door fridges, slashed in price from €699 to €299. Construction worker Sabka Syergaz said his wife had brought them hot drinks during the two days and that he intended shipping his fridge home to Mongolia.

Eager shoppers poured into the Henry Street store. At the end of the day, the top three performing departments were the men’s sports, ladies’ handbags and linen departments. Hardcore bargain hunting didn’t come without a degree of pain though, and just turning up at opening time no longer cut the mustard, as some disappointed people discovered.

It's a first come, first served policy and the cache of drastically reduced beds, TVs, white goods and king-size duvet sets went to the 100 people who queued overnight despite subzero temperatures. Grafton Street filled up from noon, with many stores benefiting from the crowds that had turned up for the Brown Thomas sale – but found it was deferred until 9am today.

The iconic department store was shut because of a flooding problem. Management confirmed it would be ready for bargain hunters today and reported brisk trade in the Brown Thomas stores around the country and BT2 branches in Dublin.

Across town, meanwhile, Dundrum Town Centre opened on St Stephen’s Day for the first time and the crowds responded. The St Stephen's Green Centre also opened for the first time on December 26, and while crowds were slow initially, it did pick up. Foolishly However, Tom Coffey of the Dublin City Business Association warned that people were not going to spend cash foolishly.

“Shoppers are being very cautious. Consumers will make sensible decisions and they are looking for value,” he said. Retail Excellence Ireland warned that sales this year were crucial to rescue an appalling Christmas for retailers. Consumers are enjoying exceptional discounts because stores have to get rid of large volumes of Christmas stock that didn’t sell because of the weather, said REI chief executive David Fitzsimons.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation found some stores reported a downturn of 30pc because of the snow. However, it noted that local retailers near where people lived, and in town centres reachable by public transport, had fared quite well compared with out-of-town retail parks.

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