A forecast of cold weather over the next few days combined with the potential impact of the budget on spending has sent a chill through retailers across the county.
Met Éireann predictions for snow this week have raised fears among traders that consumers will be deterred from hitting the shops.
However, retailers are cautiously optimistic that sales levels will hold up over the final two weeks before Dec 25, with the advent of Christmas markets in most cities providing a much-needed shopping attraction.
Maria Kelly, CEO of Limerick Chamber of Commerce, said there were more shoppers than ever around the city, although she said they seemed to be spending less on an individual basis.
“We are hoping for good weather over the next few weeks. Christmas has to be good to help retailers get over the quiet period in the first few months of next year.”
On a bright note, she claimed retailers selling luxury and expensive goods were reporting increased purchases in comparison to previous years.
“There’s a cautious air of optimism but the weather will be an important factor on how Christmas trading turns out this year.”
Claire Nash of the Cork Business Association said there had been some slow shopping periods over the past few months, although the situation improved in mid-November courtesy of a free parking initiative by Cork City Council.
Ms Nash, who owns the Nash 19 restaurant on Princes St in Cork, said trading in the few days around the budget had been a “washout”.
“It’s had a negative impact as it hits women in the pocket and they are the ones who bring a buzz to shopping in the city. It would be fabulous if we could have the budget in July.”
However, Ms Nash reported hectic trading yesterday with similar reports from other traders around the city centre. While consumers remain cautious about spending, she said the large number of people coming to Cork to shop provided grounds for some optimism after a “frightening” number of store closures over the past year.
Michael Garland, CEO of Waterford Chamber of Commerce, expressed satisfaction with the impact its Christmas festival, Winterval, has had on boosting trade.
“It has brought people into Waterford and we believe they are spending,” said Mr Garland, who noted there had been “massive” increases in city footfall compared to 12 months ago. “People seem to have taken the conscious decision to shop local and that would seem to be reflected in the figures we’re reporting.”
The Galway City Business Association also reported trading levels comparable to 2011 so far in December. “If it holds up for the entire Christmas period, it can go down as a good result,” said Anthony Ryan, association chairman.
Mr Ryan, who runs homeware stores, said shop owners were resilient despite the fact that many were struggling to succeed in the current climate.
He said the city’s Continental Christmas Market, now in its third year, provided additional football at a critical time of the year for retailers.
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