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Retailers enjoy another day of bumper trade in Belfast

Retailers in Belfast have enjoyed another busy day as thousands of bargain hunters flocked to the city centre to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales.

The annual event has been so successful some department stores reported an increase in sales from last year.

There were concerns last week that below-freezing temperatures which left Northern Ireland covered in snow and ice would have a detrimental effect on trade right over the festive period.

Generally the week before Christmas is the busiest period for stores, however in the lead-up to the big day many shoppers stayed away as they avoided any unnecessary journeys along treacherous roads.

But as the thaw set in the bargain hunters came out, keen to get their hands on heavily discounted items before the VAT increase comes in at the end of the year.

One retailer recording an increase in trade was House of Fraser. The department store inside Victoria Square had begun its annual sale early and dozens of shoppers queued outside the Belfast premises on Boxing Day eager to get their hands on a bargain.

Store manager Michelle Jackson said there were even more customers yesterday.

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She attributed this to a combination of increased trading hours and the thaw.

“Today was definitely busier than Sunday, although that is because of the trading hours. But I would still say today has had higher footfall,” she said.

“Overall the sale has been very positive for us so far.

“Last week we finished third in the company for our sale. And even though there was bad weather, it certainly didn’t impact on us.

“We had a much stronger performance than we have ever seen and we always do well at Christmas. And coming into the sale yesterday, footfall has been huge and we showed significant increase on last year.”

CastleCourt duty manager Binder Tohani said the Royal Avenue shopping complex has also fared very well in the sales.

On Sunday there were queues of customers waiting for the centre to open.

And yesterday its car park was full by 12pm.

“I haven’t got like-for-like figures but we have been extremely pleased with footfall. But certainly, it seems the numbers have been as we have expected,” she said.

“There were queues outside retailers’ doors. Our car park was full from 12pm so it’s been very busy.

“The weather hasn’t deterred people from coming in — in fact it has helped. The thaw has been better for people coming into the centre.

“Debenhams is one of our anchor stores and whenever they have their big sales it’s always a big positive for the centre.

“I would say a lot of the retailers are wanting to pull in as much trade as possible, that is why there is 50% off in a lot of stores.

“I would say both days are on par.

“Boxing Day there were queues outside the shops but today we were open for longer.

“It has been very positive and we are looking forward to the rest of the week.”