The festive shopping period might not have been the glittering revival of consumer confidence retailers hoped for, but one sector has kept its sparkle.
Jewellers are declaring this Christmas a little gem with significant rise in the numbers coming through their doors, even if customers are being extra careful about how much they spend.
Patrick Keane of Keanes Jewellers in Cork, Limerick and Killarney, said there was a big difference in atmosphere compared with the last few Christmasses.
“Customers this year seem to be more upbeat and more positive. We have had a good Christmas. The last four or five weeks have been strong despite the weather and the last two days have been bumper days.”
While most people were spending moderately, there had been an increase in demand for high-price items. “Rolex and Patek Philippe have been incredible — Patek Philippe in particular.
The brand starts at around €9,500, with the sky the limit at the other end and, while being discreet, Mr Keane said a few customers had flown very high to pick up their investment of late.
Chris Andrews, marketing director with the landmark Dublin store, Weir & Sons, also said it had been very busy. “It’s volume up, price point down. It’s great.”
He said customers were much more likely than in the past to come in with their homework done so they don’t risk spending on a gift that doesn’t suit.
While the store did very well with Chinese customers during the year, Christmas was not a very important time for them. “The great thing about seeing the store busy now is that December is very indicative of the Irish market. It’s not tourists — it’s domestic demand.”
Other retail sectors have not seen so much Christmas cheer, despite hopes that the early budget would free shoppers of the fear factor.
David Fitzsimons of Retail Excellence Ireland said fortunes had been mixed so far. “There are some winners and some losers,” he said, the big loser year being footwear and fashion with fewer forking out for winter boots and overcoats.
“The clement weather at the start of the month put people off and there is a greater willingness to postpone a lot of footwear and fashion buying to the sales.”
One other bright light in the industry is coming from flickering screens and flashing images. “The big thing is the rise and rise of tech. Kids are getting older younger now and items like consoles, smartphones and tablets are appearing on Santa’s list.”
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