Christmas bargains galore as retailers slash prices in run-up to festive season
It may not even be December, but Christmas has officially arrived in Northern Ireland with retailers slashing prices ahead of the festive period.
With the big day seemingly coming earlier and earlier each year, retailers and traders have already begun cutting prices, with clothing stores in particular competing to get customers through the doors.
Current deals on offer in Belfast city centre include Debenhams at CastleCourt tempting shoppers with women's clothing and footwear at half price as well as 40% off selected gifts, gadgets, games and toys.
Burton and Miss Selfridge are also offering up to 30% off clothing for selected items.
Meanwhile, at Victoria Square shopping centre, House of Fraser is offering 20% off knitwear, coats and sleepwear, with River Island slashing up to 30% off selected items and Warehouse offering 25% off selected clothing lines.
Argos in Belfast is doing offers on various items in the two weeks leading up to Black Friday, which falls on November 24.
Deals include a Dyson V6 Cordless Vacuum for £229.99, down from £469.99, and a Bush WMDFX714W Washing Machine for £159.99, down from £249.
The Henderson Group, which owns Spar, Eurospar, ViVOXTRA and ViVO stores, has launched its '12 Deals of Christmas' campaign, which allows shoppers to stock up on festive essentials.
Shoppers can save up to £35 collectively if each product is purchased every week. In further proof Christmas has come early, the offer started in October.
Shops in Belfast will begin to open late from Monday, December 4, with most retailers open from 9am to 9pm on weekdays.
The Christmas Market at Belfast's City Hall will also open this Saturday and will run until December 23.
Michelle Greeves, Victoria Square centre manager, said: "We have a positive outlook for Christmas this year.
"We always outperform the mainland during the festive season. With only 39 days to go, we are excited to welcome our customers for their Christmas shopping.
"We trade until 9pm all year round on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. From December 4, we will trade until 10pm every week night."
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, which represents independent traders, said: "Christmas has always been the time of the year when many retailers make a very significant part of their profit. Our members are working harder than ever to provide consumers with world-class quality and choice this Christmas.
"With Small Business Saturday taking place on December 2, we want to see consumers making an extra special effort to support their local retailers on that date and throughout the Christmas and New Year holidays.
"Around 70p in every pound spent with a local independent retailer is recycled around the local economy, supporting farmers, local producers and town centres. Retail NI is confident that this Christmas could be one of the best for our members."
Economist Andrew Webb, chairman of Belfast City Centre Management, said "It's clear that people in the south will be able to make significant savings by shopping in the north, so there should still be significant footfall from the south, which will hopefully boost Northern Ireland.
"Looking at technology and toys, an Apple MacBook is around 30% cheaper in Northern Ireland in a branded store like Currys PC World.
"For toys like Lego Star Wars, there's a 10% price difference, and a 20% price difference on the iPhone 7."
Cathal Austin, manager at the Quays shopping centre in Newry, expects to see a rise in cross-border shoppers coming to the city this Christmas, but said most stores had not started discounting yet.
"It is hard to judge how we will do this Christmas," he said. "But because we are along the border we will be bolstered by the cross-border trade.
"If you look at the figures, the high street in Northern Ireland is struggling a little at the minute. But being so close to the border we are insulated from that a bit.
"For us it really depends how many people come across the border. If we have similar numbers to last year, we will be more than happy. We expect to see a big increase in cross-border customers next month."
Peter Murray, who is manager of the Buttercrane Shopping Centre in Newry, said the fall in sterling and strengthening Euro meant Southern shoppers could save over 40% on Christmas shopping.
He said: "Last year in December we saw our euro customers reach almost 50% of total shoppers in the week prior to Christmas and this year we're already starting to see a 10% rise each weekend as we edge closer to December.
"Shoppers gain an average saving of 17% on goods bought across the border and there are over 30% in savings to be had on electrical products and phones."