Christmas tree hunters left pining as Ikea's sells out in Belfast
Festive shoppers hoping for a last-minute Christmas tree bargain were left frustrated after a Northern Ireland store's entire stock of 5,000 spruces sold out in just 10 days.
Ikea Belfast's Christmas tree offer saw the store shift an average of 500 trees per day - a 25% increase on last year.
The deal, which had been due to run until December 23, saw Ikea branch out by giving their customers a £20 voucher whenever they bought a £25 tree - effectively putting the festive firs on the market for just £5.
The Holywood Exchange store began selling trees five years ago, and sold 1,000 more trees over the course of this year's festive season than in 2016.
The trees were sourced from Scotland and the £20 voucher must be used between February 5, 2018 and April 2, 2018.
Ikea Belfast store manager Christie Gregg said the firm had been "completely overwhelmed by the phenomenal response" after the trees sold out more than three weeks before Christmas Day.
"All of our co-workers really look forward to the annual Christmas tree rush as we manage the sales entirely in-house," she added. "For us, it's a chance to embrace the festive season and enjoy this special time with customers and give them advice as they search for the perfect Christmas tree."
However, not all shoppers were lucky enough to get their hands on the offer, with one bargain hunter shocked when he found all the trees had sold out last week.
"It's a great offer and I went to Ikea on Wednesday hoping to get myself a real Christmas tree at a knockdown price, but they had already gone," he told the Belfast Telegraph.
"The offer means you're only really paying £5 for the tree and you have a £20 voucher to spend in the new year.
"It is a loss leader for them, but it encourages people to go into the store during a slow period after the January sales, so it's also a shrewd move."
When the Belfast store first began selling trees in 2012, 2,000 were sold, meaning that more than double the number of firs are now being snapped up.
Home decoration and outdoor sales leader from IKEA UK and Ireland, Marcos Tejedor said: "There is something quite special about a fresh, real Christmas tree.
"The scent of pine needles through the home is one of our favourite Christmas fragrances, lifting everyone's spirits during the festive season.
"At Ikea, we believe that people shouldn't have to fork out a small fortune on their tree," the sales leader added.
"We're also proud to be supporting local suppliers, with all our trees being sourced from around the UK."
B&Q declined to reveal their sales figures for Christmas trees and said that they had a £15 real tree deal.
A Homebase representative said that they did not have any sales data for real trees, but the company had a £5 real tree home delivery offer.