Massive discounts from some of the high street’s top names, combined with an upturn in the country’s fortunes, dragged people into cities and large towns in their droves.
Claire Nash, president of the Cork Business Association said momentum had definitely started, with the streets of the city centre streets packed.
December 8 may previously have traditionally heralded the beginning of the Christmas shopping period when people flocked into the cities from far afield to get the best deals. However, Ms Nash said the public were now more organised. She said when she took a walk through the city yesterday morning “every second shop had 20% or 40% off signs in their windows”.
In fact she said the first small signs of the festive upturn in shopping seemed to begin just after the Cork Jazz festival at the end of last month.
Ms Nash, who owns the Nash 19 restaurant in the centre of Cork, said one sign that people had more available money to spend was the upsurge in those paying with cash rather than putting items on credit card.
That optimism was echoed by Seán Murphy, deputy chief executive of Retail Excellence Ireland.
He said the sector was benefiting from the upturn in the economy.
He pointed to lower unemployment as well as the partial return of the Christmas bonus and the modest increase in child benefit as some of the reasons why the shops were more packed.
He said that over the next month, some 15m hours will be worked by part-time staff taken on in the industry to deal with the rush and he expressed the hope that some could be taken on full time.
In relation to Black Friday, he said the concept had begun to take off in Ireland last year and this year was seeing retailers developing their offering yet further.
Meanwhile, the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association urged consumers to buy Irish products from Irish SMEs when shopping over the Christmas season.
It said buying goods produced, manufactured and sold locally was the easiest way to support the economic recovery here.
“While the increase in sales is to be welcomed and other macro indicators show positive trends, the SME economy is still challenged and the retail sector is the main barometer,” said ISME chief executive Mark Fielding.
“With Irish shoppers set to spend upwards of €1,500 each at Christmas, we are calling on them to carefully consider where they spend that money. Every €10 spent locally on Irish products can generate up to €24 benefit in the local economy.”
It is estimated that up to €75m will be spent on shopping websites by Irish consumers this weekend alone.
Argos said it expects online traffic to reach a peak on “Cyber Monday” and it predicted more than 228,000 visits to argos.ie on that day.