Winter bonanza for retailers as big chill is replaced by sales fever
RETAILERS were offered respite from the gloom of empty aisles yesterday as the lure of the sales drove thousands of shoppers into stores around the country.
The big chill kept many shoppers out of the city centres over Christmas due to treacherous footpaths and icy roads.
But with the snow gone for the foreseeable future, shoppers were back in force for the first full day of the sales, after limited store openings on Sunday.
Discounts were as high as 70pc and shoppers were taking full advantage of the bargains. Some sales racks and display tables were stripped in seconds.
The crowds will do something to ease the pressure on retailers, but the losses incurred during the bad weather will not be entirely recouped.
David Fitzsimons, chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, expects the year will be down about 6.7pc compared to last year.
"December this year was horrific -- if we come to a 6pc loss we're doing okay," he said.
However, he expects retailers will see a boost in sales come January.
St Stephen's Green in Dublin opened for the first time ever on December 26 and footfall was up 15pc compared with this period last year.
Shops in the centre, including Dunnes, TK Maxx, Mothercare and Best, all reported above- expected trade for the day.
Debenhams in Cork and Dublin experienced brisk trade all day yesterday. "There is a lot of cash around," said Eileen Fitzgerald, deputy store manager at Debenhams in Cork.
"A lot of people didn't get everything done in time over Christmas so there is a lot of gift buying."
In Dundrum shopping centre in Dublin, the staff said the Monday crowds made it feel like a weekend, while Arnotts department store was also inundated with shoppers.
Leesa Kavanagh, general store manager, said: "We have had a phenomenal day of sales -- we are looking at sales breaking a two-year record."
"It is critical that retailers convert stock into cash and it seems that people at the sales are out shopping for Ireland," Mr Fitzsimons said.
Two stores, however, had some bad luck on the eve of their sales.
Both Brown Thomas in Dublin and Burgess in Athlone suffered a sprinkler malfunction that destroyed stock and delayed their post-Christmas openings. Yesterday morning, members of the public in Athlone alerted gardai that water was pouring out the side entrance of Burgess, Ireland's oldest department store.
A stockroom was flooded and the main damage was done on the ground floor of the building.
On Christmas Day a sprinkler broke on the fifth floor of Brown Thomas on Grafton Street and flooded several floors, leaving destruction in its wake. The store had to postpone its first-ever St Stephen's Day opening.
Stephen Sealy, managing director of Brown Thomas, said: "I'm delighted with business today, you just got to take these things and move on really."
Sales in BT and BT2 across the country have been mobbed.
"The Cork store did phenomenally yesterday. And the ones in Limerick and Galway did very well so it was frustrating to miss out in the Dublin store."
Rosie Boles, managing director of Burgess, said she was disappointed the flood happened but although the ground floor homeware section was closed, the rest of the shop was buzzing.