Boxing Day sales spark shopping frenzy across Northern Ireland
Tills were ringing, purses were emptied and gift vouchers used as thousands of bargain hunters made the most of Boxing Day deals across Northern Ireland.
Shops were heaving over the weekend as crowds descended on Belfast city centre on Boxing Day and Sunday to make the most of slashed prices.
Billed as the "biggest Boxing Day sale ever", hundreds of outlets dropped their prices by up to 75% in the hope of ending December on a lucrative note, and Royal Avenue, Corn Market and Victoria Square were bustling with people out to grab a bargain.
River Island and Top Shop were busy with selected lines half price, while M&S began its Boxing Day sale online at noon on Christmas Eve. Hordes queued outside Next stores across the province ahead of a 6am opening as the store promoted 50% off all goods.
Argos, Boots and Currys had cut prices by up to 75% in a bid to attract trade away from the growing popularity of online shopping.
Among those making their way to Belfast yesterday was Simon Roberts from Lisburn, who travelled with his wife Barbara, and children Rachel (16), Adam (12) and Hannah (17).
Simon got "a really good bargain" in Castle Court - a turntable reduced from £120 to £85.
"I can go round to HMV to use that money I saved on vinyl records," he said.
The painter and decorator added: "My wife would do shopping online, but it is good to see the shops so busy. So many children get vouchers for games and things and it is Boxing Day and today that they would want to use them. The only downside is the queues."
Department store Debenhams, which has been discounting heavily in the last few months, was also busy.
Gemma Graham (31) had got a number of great value buys, including perfume.
"I came in around 1.30pm. My husband was looking after my little girl, so I thought I would come in and see what I could get. I wouldn't really do this as a tradition, but it's good to see what bargains there are," she said.
"I got trainers and went to Lush and got some gift sets there as it was 50% off, and I also got perfume, I think I saved about £50, which was great."
Chief executive at the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, Glyn Roberts, said he believed initial signs were positive.
"Ultimately the only material that matters is the sales and we won't know until the exact sale figures come out," he said.
But he said he hoped the boost for local businesses continued into the new year.
"I think so far, so good. We can see online has been an even bigger player but many retailers have brought their sales forward at this time of year.
"But people it appears are genuinely spending more this Christmas and we still have the New Year Sales to come, so fingers crossed."
He said councils had worked hard to make shopping in the city centre more attractive to the public.
"Offering discounted city centre parking and working hard alongside the hospitality trade to create an overall good experience is vital."