Tills ring on 'Panic Saturday'
Last-minute Christmas shoppers keen to snap up a bargain kept the cash registers ringing out in Belfast's stores on 'Panic Saturday'.
Retailers across the city reported good trade on the last Saturday before Christmas Day, and yesterday the streets, shops, pubs and restaurants looked busy.
Steven Saunderson, manager of Hawkin's Bazaar in CastleCourt, said sales were going well, but it was hard to compare sales figures with last year, when loyalist protests and security alerts had "skewed" them.
"Saturday was a really good for sales and we are busy again today," he said last night.
"Everyone on the high street is down a wee bit, but we're finding as a company that we're not doing as badly as some others."
Last week, following the incendiary attack on Golf Madness in Cornmarket, the manager of the Blue Inc fashion store in Castle Lane described trade as "brutal", saying the security alert had cost it round £5,000.
But yesterday told a different story.
"It was very busy on Saturday," he said. "We needed it after the disruption of the security alerts. We are busy again today. I hope it continues."
Glyn Roberts (left) of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said the general consensus among its members was "so far, so good".
"Trade and footfall is up, but we obviously need to analyse sales figures come January," he said. He added that Christmas trading conditions were much better in 2013 than 2012, when protests and security alerts hurt the economy.
"Last year was difficult for traders and while there has been some disruption this year with security alerts, Belfast city centre and other town centres have got through it admirably," he said.
"Our message is that supporting local independent retailers is always the way to go." Colin Neill from Pubs of Ulster said this festive season had been "the best Christmas in Belfast for years".
But he added that "the picture varies across the province".
"It is the best Christmas in Belfast for years," he said.
"Outside of Belfast, the economy is not turning just as quickly, but that is to be expected. We are hoping the feelgood factor spreads."
Retail offers in Belfast city centre
1 Debenhams has a selection of offers in store, including up to 50% off watches, handbags, jewellery, shoes, toys and games.
2 Hawkin’s Bazaar is selling Robo fish for £10.00, or £20.00 with a bowl. It’s best selling Syma remote control helicopters are also on offer. A small helicopter is reduced from £30.00 to £24.99 and a large helicopter is reduced from £40.00 to £34.99.
3 The Perfume Shop has a selection of offers. Ralph Lauren Safari for men is reduced from £60.00 to £39.99 and a Gucci Premiere giftset is on sale for £59.99, including a mirror and body lotion. There is also limited stock of One Direction fragrance Our Moment, priced at £19.99 for 30ml and £28.50 for 50ml.
4 Thortons chocolate company is offering a ‘3 for 2 mix and match’ on 75% of its products.
5 The Yankee Candle Store has 25% of selected items, including a large jar candle down from £19.99 to £14.99.
6 Prices at Argento Christmas Shop start from £3. Mian charm bracelets are selling well. Five beads and a bracelet costs £35.00, and three beads and a necklace costs £50.00.
7 At the Body Shop in Donegall Place their strawberry, mango and coconut body butters, usually £13.00 are 2 for £16.00 and there is a ‘3 for 2’ offer on all skin care. Also, O2 customers with an affiliate code get 40% off products.
8 At Blue Inc in Castle Lane you can get two pairs of jeans for £30.00 and two t-shirts for £10.00. Knitwear is priced from £16.99.
9 Barratts in Castle Court is closing on Boxing Day. At the moment all shoes and boots are being sold at up to 60% off.
10 At the Trespass outdoor store in Donegall Place there is up to 60% off everything.