With just three shopping days left before Christmas, retail outlets in cities and town centres across Northern Ireland experienced a bumper weekend’s trade.
Tens of thousands of people braved the pre-Christmas rush as shopping centres and high street retailers bustled with shoppers young and old.
Trade was particularly brisk in Newry as shoppers south of the border flocked to the north to take advantage of the strong euro. The wet and windy weather at the weekend also proved advantageous for outlets in shopping centres as shoppers opted to spend their hard-earned cash under one roof as opposed to splashing their cash on the high street.
Peter Murray, general manager of Buttercrane Shopping Centre in Newry, revealed one independent trader reported his busiest Saturday ever since he opened an outlet in the shopping complex eight years ago. He also revealed the recent influx of southern shoppers receded slightly this weekend with more local consumers taking advantage of the bargains and VAT cuts.
Mr Murray said: “Many retailers experienced their busiest weekend this year and the tills were ringing merrily.”
Declan McChesney, an executive member of the Newry Chamber of Commerce, said the south Down city had experienced an “extraordinary Christmas” — largely due to the sheer volume of shoppers from the Republic.
Mr McChesney — owner of the Cahill Brother’s shoe shop on Hill Street — said he hoped the city’s success would last into 2009. “In the run-up to Christmas we experienced tail-backs of up to five miles long on the roads from the south,” he said.
“The situation regarding car parking reached a point where various agencies had to meet to discuss providing extra parking spaces.”
Mr McChesney said that while this weekend was extremely busy, the weekend of December 8-10 saw a peak in pre-Christmas trade from the south.
Trade was also brisk in Bangor this weekend — particularly at Bloomfield’s Shopping Centre. Bangor town centre manager Stephen Dunlop said that while shops were busy on the last Saturday and Sunday before Christmas, he expects many shoppers will leave buying gifts until the last minute to ensure they pick up bargains as shops slash their prices even further.
Mr Dunlop said: “While Bangor town centre did reasonable trade on Saturday, Bloomfield’s Shopping Centre was absolutely packed and I suspect Marks and Spencer had trouble keeping their shelves stocked.
“I suspect Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday will be very busy as a lot of people are finishing work for the holidays.”