It was once the biggest shopping day of the year, the day when entire families were “rigged out” for Christmas. Now it’s just like any other shopping day in the run-up to Christmas, say retailers.
Today, Dec 8, also known as “farmers’ day” was traditionally the day when country people piled into cars to nearby towns and cities to “do the Christmas shop”.
It was a day for picking up presents and a day for a big hotel lunch.
That’s no longer the case, however, according to retailers in Cork, Kerry, and Limerick.
Catherine Leader, whose family have run Leader’s Menswear on Cork’s South Main St for nearly 100 years, said Dec 8 was once a day “when they couldn’t cope it was so busy”.
“Unfortunately, it’s not that way anymore,” said Ms Leader. “Year by year, it has faded. I remember when whole families would be standing there waiting to be kitted out. I suppose it was a time when there wasn’t as many cars. People practically did their shopping for the next six months. All the clothes, shoes, underwear, any goods for the house, they were all bought that day.”
Ms Leader believes Sunday trading and late-night shopping have both contributed to the dwindling popularity of Dec 8. Others say another factor is the fall-off in the number of schools closing for of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on Dec 8.
At Manor West Shopping Centre in Tralee, shopping centre manager Derek Rusk said Farmers’ Day is now “more honoured in its breach than observance”.
“I’d say the mid-90s was the end of it really,” said Mr Rusk. “There were less cars before that and often cars that wouldn’t do 100 miles regularly. The internet, out-of-town shopping centres, extended trading hours, they’ve all contributed to its demise.”
Meanwhile, Retail Excellence Ireland CEO David Fitzsimons said budget speculation often hits consumer sentiment harder than the actual announcement itself.
“Often it is the pre-budget speculation and fear that hits consumer spending greater than the actual event,” said Mr Fitzsimons. “That’s what’s most damaging and it certainly has an effect on consumer spending particularly in the run-up to Christmas. I think once it’s out of the way, we could see a bit of a lift.”
Mr Fitzsimons said the budget was “reasonable” and that, despite the gloom, he was hopeful for a better year in 2013 for the retail sector.
“I’d certainly welcome the retention of the 9% Vat rate in the tourism sector and also the retention of excise duties on petrol and diesel is also welcome news,” he said.
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