Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Bag a bargain as Northern Ireland stores cut some prices by 70%

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Northern Ireland's retailers are slashing their prices by 70% or more this summer in a desperate bid to attract customers.

Debenhams, House of Fraser and Currys are among the big names who have launched July sales in a bid to make up for lacklustre takings this year.

The Belfast Telegraph found bargains galore in most medium-to high-end stores this week.

A basket of 10 items with a pre-sales value of almost £600 was up for grabs in the city centre for just over £180 – an impressive saving of 69.5%.

Among the best deals, a pair of ladies shoes in Office was reduced by 82% from £28 to £5, while a Tripp suitcase was slashed from £135 to £35, or 74%, in Debenhams.

Bad weather and loyalist protests over the Union flag have made trading conditions exceptionally difficult for retailers since last December.

But now that the sun is bringing people back out into the streets, business is finally beginning to pick up for shops, pubs and restaurants.

That's because cash-strapped consumers are availing of cut-price items to save hundreds of pounds as retailers fight to boost their profits.

The summer sales are designed to tempt customers suffering the longest squeeze on incomes ever recorded, with rising costs having outpaced increases in pay for years.

However, many local high streets appear to have dispensed with traditional seasonal sales strategies and are instead increasingly opting for an all-year-round price-cutting policy.

And it has been suggested that consumers are starting to become immune to what are, at first glance, sensational bargains because there are almost permanent sales on, with little or no time between one ending and another starting. University of Ulster retail expert Donald McFetridge said he doesn't believe there are more bargains on the high street than ever before.

"It may appear like that to the untrained eye but if you look carefully and keep a close eye on what's actually happening in the world of retailing, you will realise that the sales never actually end," he said.

"M&S and Debenhams, in particular, are constantly having long weekend sales or one or two-day guerrilla promotions or Blue Spot Days.

"The high street has almost become as bad as DFS which has constant sales which are reportedly 'ending soon', only to be replaced by another on the television and in the weekend newspaper supplements the following weekend."

He added: "However, canny consumers with a sharp eye can always pick up a bargain year-round in these economically straitened times. Many people are taking advantage of current market conditions and doing just that."

According to the British Retail Consortium, prices in June fell faster than at any time since the start of the global economic downturn six years ago.

This is great news for consumers, especially those on the hunt for clothes, furniture and DIY products – the three main elements currently driving the prices down and encouraging the current sales fever.

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