Belfast Telegraph

Sales boost for traders so welcome

By Donald C McFetridge

Yesterday, the latest statistics from Springboard arrived on my desk and they most certainly provided extremely cheering news for retailers who were hoping for a bumper Christmas season.

The number of consumers who visited high street shops this year was up by 11.7% on Boxing Day, albeit Springboard has highlighted the fact that people ventured out much later than in previous years as they used the "first few hours of the day to search for the best bargains online".

This has been a developing pattern in recent times, where clever consumers don't just rush out to the shops and purchase the first thing they see at any price.

They carefully check products and prices on their computers or mobile devices before they hit the high street to part with their hard-earned cash.

Christmas retailing has always been a game of cat and mouse, but - in my opinion - this year the consumers have won.

Most major retailers were delighted with their sales on Black Friday, but the customer most definitely had the upper hand.

This year, a large number of retailers implemented a completely different strategy and initiated what could, in future years, become a Black Weekend, as they rolled out their various offers over a number of days instead of solely on the Friday.

Many fashion and footwear retailers, keen to get rid of surplus winter stock, were offering discounts much earlier than usual but found they had to continue this throughout the Christmas period. This resulted in some extremely heavy discounting.

Shoppers also took advantage of the fact that Christmas Day fell on a Friday. No sooner had they finished Christmas lunch than they were back online searching for bargains, even before the stores opened their doors again.

Retailers have had to accept that, if they want to be around in 2016 and beyond, they must embrace a multi-channel approach.

John Lewis is one example of a retailer which recognises this trend, to the extent that it has publicly announced it plans to do more business online than in-store by 2019. Others would do well to follow its example.

Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at Ulster University Business School

Belfast Telegraph