The spectacle of 9am door opening special offers and a surge of bargain hunters rushing for handbags, trainers and homewares on December 26 filled the Government and health experts with absolute dread this week.
In requesting that traditional January sales events be deferred and that companies re-nose their sales strategy to offer their deep discounts online, the Government took retailers by surprise on Tuesday.
It wants to deter crowds of zealous bargain hunters descending on stores and shopping centres from St Stephen’s Day onwards as the Covid-19 numbers worsen.
The retail reality is that the sales horse has already bolted this year. Irish shoppers have been availing of substantial discount for the last eight weeks and a full month before Black Friday.
Despite being a pandemic year, the upcoming sales were not shaping up to be a mega bargain affair. They certainly weren’t going to resemble the recession years when there was huge amounts of unsold stock to shift and the discounts were as deep as the crowds outside the door.
That’s because Irish consumers have been busy shopping online in and out of lockdowns and stores’ click and collect policies have paid off handsomely for many.
However, it was the vista of another lockdown looming next month that perhaps triggered the biggest temptation to go to the sales this weekend.
In a ‘reverse cabin fever’ scenario, there was every chance shoppers would have come out in numbers simply because they wanted to get out of the house before being ordered back indoors.
The worrying increase in Covid-19 cases will undoubtedly colour people’s decision about whether to go out sales shopping.
The seasonal discounts that have been offered since the shops reopened on December 1 are likely to continue, but you will see a step away from the usual big marketing and advertising campaigns and posters shouting ‘discounts’.
Richard Guiney, CEO of DublinTown which represents 2,500 businesses in the city centre, says he believes “the more responsible retailers will not be promoting their sales or having big signs around the shops, but I still think there will be some discounted lines at the prices they are currently selling at”.
Retail consultant Eddie Shanahan said: “Stores may not put up the word ‘sale’ but they will discount stock and there will be a big shift to online, that’s for sure.”
Brown Thomas and Arnotts announced that their annual Winter Sale event will only be available online this year.
Their physical stores will open as planned at 9am on St Stephen’s Day, with "seasonal reductions across all categories”, they said.