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Record sales at Belfast's Victoria Square as Northern Ireland towns and cities enjoy Christmas shopping frenzy

By Margaret Canning

Published 29/12/2015

Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2015
Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye
General views of Christmas shoppers in Belfast .
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2015 Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye General views of Christmas shoppers in Belfast .
Press Eye - Northern Ireland - 23rd December 2015 Photograph:Stephen Hamilton/Presseye General views of Christmas shoppers in Belfast .
Shoppers in the Buttercrane shopping centre in Newry

Victoria Square Shopping Centre attracted its highest number of shoppers ever in the week before Christmas, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Sales were also up by just under 10% at the centre in Belfast - and a representative for independent shops also reported an increase in sales for Christmas and Boxing Day compared to the same time last year.

Retailers had been bracing themselves for a tough Christmas thanks to mild winter weather and waning consumer enthusiasm following early discounting brought on by Black Friday.

Early indications from shopping centres, Buttercrane in Newry and Victoria Square, are that consumers have been out in their droves - and shopping fever shows no sign of abating.

Buttercrane said it had enjoyed its best Christmas since 2011 with a 3.4% increase in footfall leading to "excellent sales figures".

Michelle Greeves, manager of Victoria Square, said December trading had started out subdued but quickly picked up as Christmas approached.

"It was slower earlier in December but the last few weeks were very good. We were well up both year-on-year, and week-on-week, in the last week before Christmas."

She said the centre had recorded its highest number of shoppers in its seven-year history in the week before Christmas.

She said the centre was not divulging exact figures for shopper numbers or sales figures though it's understood sales were up by not far off 10%.

Footfall has also been healthy over the Boxing Day sales, she said.

"We opened from 9am to 6pm on Boxing Day and there were crowds of people out because it was a Saturday. Sunday was positive as well."

Centre manager Peter Murray said Buttercrane had coped well with the challenges of a strong sterling - with a pound worth around €0.73, there is little incentive for shoppers from the Republic to cross the border into Newry for their sales shopping.

There were also strong sales at jeweller Argento at Buttercrane - while womenswear chain Dorothy Perkins was the best-performing fashion chain.

Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said it had also been a good Christmas for small shops and independent stores.

He said: "Anecdotally, footfall figures have been up but it's too early to tell what the exact sales figures will be.

"So overall, it's been a good year, better than last year - but it's too early yet to say if it's a record year, but the mood music is good.

"Sales have been good, consumer confidence is better and people have been spending money - and that's a good sign for the economy."

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