Early start for shoppers as sales get under way
The annual festive sales rush got off to an early start in Northern Ireland today, with doors opening as early as 4am.
After a quiet Boxing Day launch to the seasonal clearout, with only limited numbers of stores opening yesterday, retailers were hoping for exceptionally high levels of business today when almost all stores throw their doors open to the public.
The post-Christmas sales have fast become a popular alternative to the January sales with major department stores slashing prices by up to 70% as early as December 26.
Yesterday big chains such as Debenhams and Curry's were the first to open their doors to the public while the annual sale at Next was due to begin at 4am today at the Donegall Place and Boucher Road stores, and at 5am at all their other stores throughout the Northern Ireland.
And shoppers not able to make it to the stores of their choice or hoping to avoid the massive queues associated with the January sales will also be able to grab bargains from the Internet, where most major stores are offering cut-price goods for sale.
Retailers hope that Ulster people will splash the cash in the coming days after a lacklustre performance before Christmas.
According to retail market monitors FootFall, the number of High Street visits made by Christmas Eve shoppers fell by more than 40% compared to the same day last year.
But the organisation stressed this compared a restricted Sunday trading day to last year when Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday. Many stores closed earlier than advertised on December 24.
Natasha Burton, analyst at FootFall, said the January sales followed some heavy pre-Christmas discounting on the high street.
"It is a very important time for the retailers, but the key thing will be how they make these sales stand out to attract people in," she said.
Kevin Hawkins, director of the British Retail Consortium, said the sales were an important way of clearing excess winter stock and increasing footfall into stores.
"There are always some good bargains to be had. It is just whether you have got the patience and the sheer grit to go hunting," he said.