Traders bank on bumper Boxing Day
NORTHERN Ireland shoppers are expected to come out in record numbers today as retailers hope Boxing Day sales will rescue a dismal Christmas trading period.
After a lacklustre year on the high street, thousands of retailers will slash their prices, with bargains of up to 95% to be had in some outlets.
Indeed, Boxing Day 2013 is set to be one of the busiest for years as many people said they would be delaying present buying until today's sales bonanza starts.
In anticipation of one of the hottest discount events of the year, the usual night/early morning queues were expected to throng the streets outside Next stores across the province ahead of 6am opening today.
The retailer, whose online Boxing Day sale began at 3pm on Tuesday, promised eager bargain-hunters that "absolutely all sales items" will be "half price or less".
Big household names such as Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser – who both held special 30% and 40% discount days in the run-up to Christmas – are due to slash prices futher today, with shoppers out in force to take advantage of lucrative deals.
M&S began its St Stephen's Day sale online at noon on Christmas Eve, but promised in-store savings today of up to 50% across many ranges in womenswear, menswear, lingerie, kidswear, home and beauty.
Elsewhere, the department store Debenhams, which has been discounting heavily in the last few months, and Gap, the clothing retailer where there have been 60% reductions on some stock items, are both gearing up to offer consumers massive offers.
Most other well-known high street retailers will also be cutting the cost of goods by up to 75% in a bid to take their share of the Boxing Day money pot.
University of Ulster retail analyst Donald McFetridge said today will give local traders a much-needed boost to their coffers.
"It hasn't been a particularly buoyant year on the high street given the bad weather, the ongoing flag protests and then the security alerts in the run-up to Christmas," he said.
"One of the upshots is that consumers have been saving their money and we can expect local businesses to benefit today.
"It won't be crazy shopping like we've never seen before, but it will be the busiest Boxing Day we have seen for a number of years."
Indeed, according to research by credit card company Capital One, one in four people across the UK has made a pact with loved ones to exchange presents on Boxing Day so they can make their pounds stretch further.
And a third will be handing over cash or vouchers so family can get more value for money with twice as many items as prices tumble by an average 50%.
CastleCourt shopping centre boss Paul McMahon, also president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said there had been a great buzz in the city, with excellent offers in many stores. The early indications are that it is going to be a good end to what has been a testing year.
"Today in particular is set to be a bumper day for sales with many retailers holding off on starting their sales until very recently."
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association boss Glyn Roberts said traders were expecting a good day province-wide.
"Up until now shopping has been good so we're all hoping that the period beginning on Boxing Day and going into the New Year will be equally as good if not better," he said. "People have money and they want to spend it. For us the period after Christmas is now more important than the run-up to it, and we want to keep the momentum going."