Belfast Telegraph

Consumers kickstart Christmas

By Donald C McFetridge

Retailers across the world have been rejoicing at the success of last weekend, when consumers enjoyed bargains galore on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The days in between were also extremely busy, which resulted in a weekend shopping bonanza - particularly for online retailers.

Arguably, the high street, too, had its fair share of trade and many retailers have been reporting accelerated sales ahead of the all-important Christmas shopping period.

One disadvantage of the bumper retail weekend was the sight of consumers fighting over plasma television sets in supermarkets, leading critics to highlight the fact that some of the multiple chains had not provided enough security.

Black Friday was humorously (but accurately) renamed Black Eye Friday, when consumers were as likely to get an unwelcome shiner as a bargain in the electrical department.

Some consumers also complained of a lengthy wait online as the internet and retailers' online provision struggled to keep up with demand.

It should surely come as no surprise to retailers that Cyber Monday was also a resounding success in sales terms as consumers cheered themselves up by spending online to chase away the Monday blues.

Interestingly, next Monday - December 8 - is predicted to be another bumper day for online retailers. Let's hope that retailers are better prepared this time.

At the end of the day, it must be remembered that consumers only have a limited amount of money to spend and - even after the success of the past week - I personally believe that special events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday do little more than spread that spending over a longer period of time.

However, it is apparent that these events have managed to get the Christmas season kickstarted in what retailers are eagerly hoping will be one of the best in recent years.

The downside is that, during the recession, consumers have learned how to seek out discounts and bargains and now most o f them (whatever their income) are unwilling to pay full price for any-thing ever again. Caveat emptor.

  • Donald C McFetridge is a retail analyst at the Ulster University Business School

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