Retailers hoping for Stephen’s Day bonanza

RETAILERS are expecting bargain hunters to flock to the shops this St Stephen’s Day with even more stores planning to break with tradition and open their doors.

This is in response to what has been described as the worst December in recent history for retailers, with sales down almost 7% on last year. The icy weather has seen shoppers stay local and away from city centres and shopping parks.

Retailers said more people are looking for discounts and fewer are buying for themselves. However, they expect that come St Stephen’s Day they will take advantage of the sales in stores, such as Debenhams and Brown Thomas, which have decided to open. Some branches of Penneys will also open and Tesco have decided to open 17 of their larger stores and 40 Express stores from 10am on St Stephen’s Day. In Dublin Clerys and Arnotts will also open.

Many shopping centres around the country will be open from 10am, such as Mahon Point in Cork. Boots, Zara, A Wear, Lifestyle and River Island among the stores that will be trading.

Retail Excellence Ireland said the days from December 26 to January 10 are likely to be a very busy retail period as “buy for me” customers go shopping.

The group said the recent adverse weather decimated consumer spending as well as late-night trading. They also said that credit cards sales have been significantly reduced as more shoppers want to spend what they have and stay away from credit.

Gift card sales are also significantly lower as customers spend less and are concerned about the ability of some retailers to continue to trade. They said that customers are also looking for additional discounts at the till, especially when shopping with independent retailers.

Chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland, David Fitzsimons said: “The retail industry has been hit with the perfect storm in recent weeks. If IMF intervention and a very severe budget were not enough, the arrival of arctic conditions has minimised shopping activity and has left many of the largest destination shopping centres and cities near empty.

“While regional retailers have been negatively impacted due to reduced shopper activity they have also gained as customers stay local. Retailers who are in the worst distress are those who are in the primary shopping centres and retail park locations, with Dublin hit very severely.”

REI said local authorities could have done more to make local towns more accessible in the last few weeks, with retailers saying many footpaths were in an unacceptable condition.

Also cross-border activity is significantly down on last year due to the current exchange rate, a more competitive priced offer in the south and the weather.

Meanwhile, sales figures for November released yesterday by the Central Statistics Office showed that consumer spending rose slightly overall, but sales still remained weak.

The volume of retail sales rose by 0.2% compared with October, but excluding motor sales there was a 0.2% drop.

Compared with November last year sales excluding the motor sector were down 0.9%.

Bar sales suffered the biggest fall of 4.6% and have now fallen by 11.4% over the last 12 months.

WINNERS

* DIY stores — many of which have run out of snow chains.

* Plumbers — inundated with emergency calls.

* Panelbeaters — as motorists struggle to stay on the road.

LOSERS

* Restaurants and hotels — hit as weather forces cancellation of Christmas parties.

* Shop employees, many of whom will have to work at 10am on St Stephen’s Day.

* Bars, where sales are down 11.4% in the last 12 months.

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