Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland stores hope weak sterling will set Boxing Day tills ringing

By Claire McNeilly

Retailers across Northern Ireland are rubbing their hands at the prospect of a bumper, Brexit-inspired Boxing Day.

And, with price reductions of up to 70% across items in many stores, experts predict this year is going to be the biggest December 26 yet for bargain hunters.

The takings will be boosted to record levels by an unprecedented surge of southern shoppers aiming to take full advantage of the weakness in sterling's value following the Brexit vote.

Sales are already up by 30% in border towns across the province and that figure is unlikely to diminish as consumers make the most of the Boxing Day discounts, when the best offers are traditionally up for grabs.

Shoppers spent big on Black Friday last month and on the frenzied Friday before Christmas Eve, but that won't stop the streets being thronged today.

Deals are almost always better in the Boxing Day sales compared to the January sales when retailers become desperate to shift unwanted stock.

And while items may be cheaper in the early part of the year, there will be less choice.

Michelle Greeves, centre manager at Victoria Square, one of Belfast's top retail complexes, said today is expected to be busier than previous Boxing Days following a bumper festive period.

"It has been a very strong Christmas for us and we've been breaking records," she said.

"The weekend of December 16 was our biggest weekend since we opened in March 2008 and the week in the run-up to Christmas was our best ever."

The trading mecca, which boasts big names such as Hollister, Cruise, Tommy Hilfiger, Kurt Geiger and Calvin Klein, will offer core opening hours from 9am until 6pm, although some stores may open at 8am and close later.

Reductions will amount to 50% across the board, although bargain hunters may snap up a range of items at discounts of as much as 70% in some outlets.

Shops in The Quays, Newry, will open from 9am until 6pm, although household name Next will open at 6am. Reductions of up to 70% are up for grabs.

Centre manager Cathal Austin believes sales will be up 30% on Boxing Day last year. "December has been excellent and we expect to be much busier today," he said.

"Euro-trade sales are up 60% in December compared to this time last year.

"A lot of people are keeping their money to take advantage of the great discounts at the start of the sales and long-distance shoppers will be back in force as the exchange rate is so favourable."

At The Outlet, Banbridge, shops will open from 10am until 6pm, with further discounts of up to 60% on a range of goods.

Manager Chris Nelmes says retailers expect goods to fly off shelves and are braced for the busiest Boxing Day ever.

"We're geared up for a bumper sales day," he said. "We're also ready for southern shoppers to make the most of the exchange rate which, combined with sales offers, means they potentially stand to make huge savings."

But retail expert Donald McFetridge is less convinced tills will be ringing off the shelves today, as he predicts consumers will need a break after the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy.

"Christmas falling on a Sunday meant that consumers had the opportunity to shop right up until the very last minute," he said.

"Some consumers will always search for bargains in the sales no matter what day of the year it is, but others will wait until it suits their timetable.

"Last year, larger cities saw their fair share of Boxing Day shoppers, while smaller towns had fewer consumers. This year, Belfast will probably see lots of bargain-hunters while the smaller towns will have less footfall."

He added: "It must be remembered that footfall does not always translate into consumer spending."

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