Belfast shoppers hit the streets in search of Boxing Day bargains
Savvy shoppers braved the rain and cold to pick up a bargain or two in the Boxing Day sales in Belfast city centre.
Retailers had been hoping customers would be enticed by further discounts to hit the stores for what is still a key date in the shopping calendar, despite the popularity of online shopping.
And although the weather was miserable, which may have adversely affected footfall, there were still plenty of bargain hunters out in force, keen to take advantage of the sales.
It had been predicted Boxing Day sales would see discounts of up to 50% on some high street items, following extended periods of pre-Christmas discounting, such as the Black Friday event in November.
Northern Ireland retailers had been estimated to ring in £24m in sales on Thursday, with other places outside Belfast reporting strong festive trading.
Buttercrane Shopping Centre in Newry in particular enjoyed a buoyant December, with some stores recording their best ever trading figures.
Peter Murray, centre manager, revealed a strong euro had led to increased cross-border trade and had helped, in part, to ensure Buttercrane's success this Christmas.
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Meanwhile, Belfast retailers had been hoping the reopening of the cordoned zone around the Primark store at the landmark Bank Buildings - which were destroyed in a fire in 2018 - would ensure an extra boost this year.
Adding to the city's footfall on Thursday were mum and daughter Lynne and Dani Carroll (34) from east Belfast.
They arrived before 9am, determined to make the best of their traditional Boxing Day destination - the Next fashion store.
"Each year it's always Next. There are good bargains to be had," said Dani. "I picked up some kids' clothes. It's great because I can get enough to do me through the year."
Lynne revealed that she was already thinking ahead to the summer season, and she was focusing on picking up items for a sunny holiday.
"I got some sundresses and flip-flops. The Next sale is great, there are some great bargains," she said.
Also paying a visit to Next - which opened its doors at 6am - was Asmai Fakhoury.
The student, who is studying at Queen's University, Belfast, is originally from Jordan in the Middle East and was keen to experience the shopping event.
"It is my first time shopping on Boxing Day," she said.
"From Next I picked up three blouses and a top. I'm still looking for a jacket and boots. I just wanted to get clothes." However, Asmai said she wasn't convinced the bargains on offer had lived up to the 'hype' in terms of the discounts.
"I think the prices were already very high before the Boxing Day sales," she said.
The sale at Lush - which is always a popular destination for Boxing Day shoppers - proved enough of a draw for Aoibhinn McCaffrey, who had travelled from Carryduff to take advantage of the retailer's 50% discount on festive lines.
"In Zara I picked up just a top but in Lush I spent too much. I got some of their bath bombs," she laughed.
"I was also in Next and picked up some homeware - tablemats and towels, just a couple of things."
Friends Dean McCavery (18) and 19-year-old Luke Montegomery, from Moira, said they had shunned online shopping in favour of seeing what their chosen stores - JD Sports, Lifestyle Sports and Urban Outfitters - had on the shelves.
"I've picked up two shirts and a hat so far... I just want to be able to try things on before I buy them and you can't do that when you buy online," said Dean.
The pair said it was mainly the 'big name' sportswear and footwear retailers they were most interested in visiting.
"We're also going to Size? and Footlocker," said Luke.
Meanwhile, student Dino Barreto had only one reason to visit the stores - an outfit for New Year's Eve.
"I visited Topman and Zara, where I got some new shoes.
"I'm going out on New Year's and I wanted some new clothes," revealed the 24-year-old.
"I think I made some good savings on it."
Top 5 bargains
Elizabeth Arden 'Holiday Blockbuster' Makeup and Skincare Gift Set, Debenhams,
Sale price: £86.25
Original price: £345
Hugo Arti Extra Slim Two Tone Three-Piece Suit Jacket, House of Fraser
Sale price: £139
Original price: £279
Oral B Genius X Black Electric Toothbrush and Travel Case, Boots
Sale price: £120.00
Original price: £340.00
LG 10kg 1400 Spin Washing Machine, Currys
Sale price: £399
Original price: £569
Vivienne Westwood Rose Gold Farringdon Watch, Argento
Sale price: £145
Original price: £275