Belfast Telegraph

Shop tills ring up £50m Christmas bonus thanks to last minute spree

By Hannah Mark

Shoppers across Northern Ireland splashed out an estimated £50m yesterday, with another retail spree expected today.

With the rush for last minute Christmas presents well under way, sales in many stores have already begun with up to 75% off some items.

Experts believe £12m in cash was handed over, while shops took around £38m from credit and debit cards.

Meanwhile, Belfast's Victoria Square said Thursday was the busiest day ever for the centre.

Almost 89,000 people passed through the centre, a figure that is up 8% on the previous busiest day, on December 22, 2008.

Traditionally, the last Friday before Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

Hugh Black, Victoria Square centre manager, said: “As we gear up for the last few shopping days before Christmas, we are optimistic that this could be another record-breaking week for Victoria Square. In recent weeks we have recorded our busiest individual Saturday and Sunday footfall levels, last week we experienced our busiest week on record and yesterday was our busiest ever day.

“We must also take into account the fact that the weather has been much milder this year, which has been a great relief to everyone working in the retail sector,” he added.

He suggested that the recent boost in positive publicity for the city attracts more people to Belfast. “The MTV EMAs and the Continental Market makes it more appealing,” he said.

Shoppers June Ferguson and her daughter Shannon from Belfast were in the city centre getting gifts for family and friends. Student Shannon (19) had been buying jewellery and clothes from Topshop. “The shopping in Belfast is getting better over the years. There's better shops now,” she said.

Yvonne Finnegan, a retail assistant, and her husband were struggling to carry the bags holding gifts for their two young boys. She had been waiting for pay day to buy CD players and Xbox games. Yvonne confessed that she doesn't normally shop in the city centre: “There's a great choice of shops in Belfast but internet shopping is easier. It's delivered to the house and it's more convenient.”

Cathal Davis (18), from Jordanstown, agreed that the range of shops that Belfast city centre has to offer is great. The shop assistant had left it late to buy his gifts for eight family members. “There's so many places to choose from that I know I'll get everything today,” he said.

“But next year will be challenging and retailers will have to work harder,” Mr Black warned. “It is survival of the fittest.”

Belfast Telegraph

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