Belfast Telegraph

The top bargains for Christmas... but get in quick the offers won't be around for long

Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

You can talk about footfall all you like, but what really matters this Christmas are the feet shuffling towards the till.

On that front, things are clearly looking up for Belfast's beleaguered retailers.

For the first time in months, the city centre is bustling with actual shoppers buying actual goods, rather than people wandering to one of the countless coffee shops or, more recently, to the Christmas market.

The rejuvenated stores have Primark, in part, to thank for this, with the clothing giant's return to the city two weeks ago turning the tide in their favour.

Those who were looking elsewhere for bargains have returned in their thousands to give city centre traders a much-needed boost at a critical time in the annual financial calendar.

But that is just part of the reason why it is - finally - beginning to look a lot like Christmas here.

The buskers are back, the inclement weather - and carol singers - too but, crucially, so are the people with money to spend.

And that's what they're busy doing in a last-ditch attempt to secure some festive bargains before December 25.

The real reason, however, for the tills ringing so loudly and the queues getting longer are the much-earlier-than-normal post-Christmas deals.

And now the word about those is out, savvy shoppers are hunting down a plethora of unbelievable offers that are normally not unveiled until at least Boxing Day.

When some of retail's biggest players, including House of Fraser and Debenhams, started - very quietly - discounting (by 30%, then 50% and sometimes by as much as 70%) earlier this week, the news spread fast.

From as early as Wednesday, there was an explosion of unprecedented sales and then shoppers in Belfast city centre, and numbers have been growing steadily since.

The only shops that are still relatively empty are those who continue to resist the temptation to further slash their prices.

Today and tomorrow are expected to see local consumers part with £50m on what will be the busiest days of the month so far, which is fantastic news for local retailers who badly need a trading boost after a difficult year - particularly those whose businesses almost went under with the Primark fire.

But it is also bad news for shoppers who normally save themselves for the traditional Boxing Day sales because by the time next Wednesday comes, there'll be far fewer treasures to find.

If you've left your Christmas present buying until the last minute, however, you'll find plenty of festive cheer this year in the bargains that abound.

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