Boxing Day sales set to be biggest ever
Thousands of Northern Ireland shoppers are expected to hit the town today for what has been billed as the "biggest Boxing Day sale ever".
After several difficult months on the high street, hundreds of outlets will slash their prices by up to 75% in the hope of ending December on a lucrative note.
Some experts have said that Boxing Day 2015 is set to be one of the busiest for years as retailers attempt to rid their shelves of Christmas stock by offering massive discounts.
President of Belfast Chamber of Commerce, Hugh Black, said he expects today to be a bumper day for sales.
"Retailers will be taking full advantage of it being a Saturday and we expect it to be the biggest Boxing Day sale ever," he said.
However, others - including Ulster University-based Donald McFetridge - have warned that the traditional shopping frenzy may move off the streets and online, which is what happened last month on Black Friday.
The majority of high street retailers will be offering huge discounts on a range of products including clothes, shoes, jewellery, homeware, furniture and electrical goods.
Queues were expected to throng the streets outside Next stores across the province ahead of its 6am opening - and this year's St Stephen's Day extravaganza is predicted to be bigger and better than last year.
As usual, all information on specific deals has been kept under lock and key until this morning, but bargain-hunters can expect to secure at least 50% off selected items if past form is anything to go by.
Popular household names such as Marks and Spencer and House of Fraser - which held special 30% and 40% off discount days in the run-up to Christmas - are due to knock down prices even further today.
M&S began its Boxing 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, homeware 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 including Argos, Boots and Currys will also be cutting the cost of goods by up to 75% in a bid to take their share of the December 26 money pot.
Michelle Greeves, manager of Victoria Square shopping mall in Belfast, said retailers have been looking forward to today.
"We've had a very strong December so far and we expect that to continue," she added.
Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association boss Glyn Roberts said traders were expecting a good day province-wide.
"Shopping has been better this Christmas than it has been for years," he said.
"Retailers and grocers are expecting a good turnout today because people have money and they want to spend it."
Mr McFetridge, a retail analyst based at the University of Ulster Business School, said shoppers are more likely to go online in search of bargains today rather than venture out onto the high street.
"While there will always be a few die-hards out there early on the morning of Boxing Day, there will be far more lying back on their sofas or sitting in their favourite armchairs watching streaming videos on a wide variety of devices while, multitasking, and making discreet purchases online on their tablets and mobile telephones," he added.
December 26 is called Boxing Day because, in times gone by, servants and tradesmen would receive gifts - known as a 'Christmas box' - from their bosses.
Now, though, it has become a sales bonanza with tech, fashion and furniture giants kicking off their annual wave of clearouts.
It's a day when shoppers hit the stores in order to snap up superb discounts - or even start their shopping for next Christmas.
- 1. Next started at 6am today. Everything is half price
- 2. Amazon online only. Up to 50% off (Lenovo YOGA 300 11.6-inch Convertible notebook, was £249.99, now £194.99.)
- 3. Superdrug. Up to 73% off (Calvin Klein CK One, was £20, now £10.)
- 4. Argos. Up to 60% off (Last year the VAX S7-A+ lightweight steam mop was slashed from £149.99 to £39.99.)
- 5. Laura Ashley. Up to 50% off homewear and fashion (Lothian check grape throw, was £120, now £60)
- 6. Boots. Has previously discounted items by as much as 75%
- 7. House of Fraser. Huge discounts across clothing, homewear and more
- 8. Top Shop. Discounts of up to 70% expected
- 9. New Look. 60% off men's and womenswear
- 10. Debenhams. Up to 50% off