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Sinead Ryan: We women will struggle with the bills for that perfect pair of shoes

Blame the Sex And The City effect. Long after Carrie and friends hung up their Manolos, we realise we're still hooked. It mightn't be Jimmy Choos or Blahniks any more for us, but even when the going gets tough, the tough still go shopping.

And there's one thing we can't do without: it-might-be-a-recession-but-I've-got-new-shoes, shoes. Everything else is falling apart in the wardrobe, which is the only explanation for the woeful retail sales figures just out.

They show our spend on clothes is way down -- actually, for 'down', read the direst they've ever been -- but it's good news all the way for our favourite accessory -- shoe sales are up, girls.

Yep, over 3pc, which would give you a little hope that we've not lost all our sartorial elegance, after all. We mightn't be able to afford the ESB bill, or to go out to dinner but, hey, we never met a 'to die for' pair of shoes that we could do without, now did we?

We'll make and mend, borrow and swap the gunas, tops and jeans, but the footsies have to look good all the time. We're just doing our bit for the economy, after all, aren't we?

But wait. The news isn't so good after all. According to Retail Excellent Ireland, whose figures they are, we are... gasp, horror... "shopping for function rather than fashion".

Yes, the snow and ice caused us to reach for the practical wellies, sensible booties and those awful looking wire things that strap onto your footwear, rather than sending us slipping and sliding into the shoe department at Brown Thomas.

There's simply no excuse for it. What on earth would Carrie have to say? Girls, girls -- it wasn't for ugly shoes that you were born to shop!

Elsewhere of course, the news is just as serious. REI expects 400 stores to close this year and reports the 35th consecutive month decline in retail sales.

In most households, it's the women who hold the purse strings. Arguably we're much better budgeters then men.


We'll separate the "must- haves" from the "nice-to-haves" as we struggle to pay bills and put food on the table.

We may splurge more when money's about, but never when it's not. So, for shops who want to stay open, they need to work harder at attracting women shoppers.

Many of them recognise this, but I for one, was very annoyed going round the sales, with some seasonal vouchers burning a hole in my pocket, to find some poor selling practices still being used in certain shops, which caused me to think twice. So, retailers, here's a list of things you can do to get my custom if your sales are flagging:

Stop putting a single tacky sales rail at the front of the shop while emblazoning your window with banners declaring "50pc off". If you must bundle all the sale stuff together, why can't you hang it nicely like the new collections?

And don't give me pretend offers. Stop using "from" and "up to" in tiny print on posters while advertising everything else in massive print.

Sales assistants: stop standing there talking to your mate about last night's date. I'm standing right in front of you. Hello?

And finally, bane of my life: please, please can you build proper dressing rooms: I'd like mirrors on three sides please, and more hooks and a bench for my stuff. Nobody likes having to put their clothes in a pile on a dirty floor so that yours can go on the single hanger.

So, I'm hanging on to my vouchers and they're staying put until I'm really asked, very nicely, to part with them. Until then, stop complaining about your problems and treat me like I want to buy.