Watch: The price is right as Black Friday bonanza draws shoppers into Belfast stores
Bargain hunters turn out in force as lure of huge savings puts city centre in a festive mood
Belfast was buzzing during the Black Friday shopping blitz, putting paid to any suggestion that the annual retail event has lost any of its lustre. Parking was at a premium, with some motorists taking at least half an hour to find a space in many central multi-storey car parks, while queues for coffee shops, toilets and tills were noticeably long.
It was one of the busiest lunchtimes in the city centre for months as workers on their breaks weaved their way into shops where they mingled with canny consumers completing a circuit of the traders in the retail hub.
The streets around City Hall - which is currently playing host to the popular Christmas Market in its grounds - were packed with people on the look-out for a good deal and apparently filled with festive spirit, the crowd seeming upbeat and lively.
A noisy climate change protest anchored at The Spirit of Belfast public art sculpture in the middle of Cornmarket injected some feistiness into the atmosphere and swelled footfall levels in the central shopping belt.
And all around, bargain-hunters continued their pursuit of cut-price purchases, with many balancing boxes or laden down with festive carrier bags emblazoned with Santa's face, as sale signs promised up to 75% off and more.
There were 'Buy Two Get One Free' offers and banners boasting reductions of 30% and 50%, as an ever-growing list of retailers opted to offer deals on everything from technology to toys, fashion and holidays, tech and appliances.
Mother and daughter Pauline McCausland (53) and Amanda Brown (33) from Belfast said the Black Friday sales this year were better than last year.
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"We absolutely love shopping," said Mrs McCausland.
"We've been everywhere and the plan is to keep shopping until we drop.
"I've bought a lot of things for my grandchildren so I can't say too much about them but I definitely picked up plenty of bargains. I'm really pleased."
She added: "The Argos sale is great this year and I know a lot of people have taken advantage of their deals to get started on their Christmas shopping."
Homemaker mum Amanda, who has a nine-year-old daughter Eva and a six-year-old son Troy, said she'd saved around £50 on her purchases in different shops.
"New Look has 50% off a lot of their clothes so I only spent around £25 there instead of double that," she said.
"Similarly, River Island was having a good wee sale and I picked up some items that would usually have cost close to £80 for £65.
"I'm happy with what I've got and it was definitely worth my while coming into town. If you prepare in advance and you know exactly what you want to buy you can save a lot of money."
She added: "We look forward to Black Friday every year and we haven't been disappointed yet. I'm just starting my Christmas shopping today."
The steady Black Friday trade brought a welcome boost to the city's traders who are only now getting back on their feet after the far-reaching ramifications of the Primark fire in 2018.
Belfast Metropolitan College employee Natalie Graham (30) and her mum Lillian Stewart (63), both from Belfast, said they started shopping at 10am.
"We were only supposed to be here for an hour... but one thing led to another and we've still got some shops on our to-visit list," said Natalie.
"It's pay day and I've got my husband's credit card so I'm really making the most of it!"
Revealing that she'd already bagged bargains in Debenhams, Zara, the Disney Store, Oasis, White Stuff and Marks and Spencer, she added that the two of them were "working their way around Belfast".
Her mum Lillian, who's retired, said she'd spent £200 by lunchtime and estimated that her daughter's outgoings were closer to the £300 mark.
And although there were no presents for family or friends among their purchases when the Belfast Telegraph talked to them, Natalie promised she was on her way to Fat Face "to get my husband some clothes for Christmas".
Ticking a few items off her personal wish list yesterday was 23-year-old Downpatrick accounts office worker Shannon Lynch, who came to Belfast especially for the Black Friday sales.
"I got some great bargains in River Island which is offering 20% off a lot of clothing," she said, revealing that she'd spent £100 altogether.
With the weak pound attracting more shoppers from the Republic, there was a notable increase in people crossing the border into Northern Ireland and the car parks were packed with vehicles bearing southern registrations.
Rosie Blake (54), an accountant from Dublin, said she had given herself a budget of £500 for all her Christmas shopping, as well as "a couple of bits and pieces for myself".
"The exchange rate is in our favour so we're getting great value for money, and I'm delighted the deals seem to be a lot better than in previous years," she added.
Meanwhile, doctor Roisin Carr (52), also from Dublin, had a hit list of items in mind.
"I've got plenty of room in the car and a sizeable budget so I'll just see how many bargains I can find over the next couple of days as I'm here for the weekend," she said.
Belfast-based A&E nurses Alberto Jose (23) and Paul Nunez (23) were taking advantage of the Black Friday sales to buy outfits for their separate romantic dates last night.
"I bought a jumper, a fleece and a pair of jeans for about £60 in total so I'm delighted," said Alberto.
His work colleague Paul revealed that he'd purchased a jacket for £120 and gained a £20 voucher as a result of the transaction.
"It's pay day and I've still got some shopping to do so who knows what else I'll buy before the day is out?" Paul added, laughing.
Getting through their Christmas list successfully was Lagmore couple Vicky (32) and Phil Lavery (38), who were in town with their adorable little daughter Eve, who is two-and-a-half years old.
"The Next sale is fantastic; we got a beautiful dress and some sparkly red shoes for Eve to wear on December 25," Vicky, a finance officer, said. "So far I've spent £80 and saved £20 so I'm happy with that.
"We tend to do a lot of shopping on Black Friday because I find there are bargains out there if you know what you're looking for.
"I generally get a mixture of presents and clothes and this year I've allowed us a budget of £300 which should get us the bulk of our wish list."
Her husband Phil, a delivery driver for a major Northern Ireland drinks group, said the retail giant Tesco had "brilliant Black Friday bargains on televisions".
"Some models are down from £200 to £140 so they've been flying off the shelves," he said, adding that their connections mean they're "entitled to family discount" in addition to the already-reduced sales price.
Earlier this week, consumer champion Which? warned that a worrying number of last year's Black Friday offers weren't genuine, stressing that many so-called exceptional deals were actually cheaper, or available at the same price, at other times of the year, not just on the last Friday of November.
On the streets of Belfast yesterday, however, the general consensus was that there were bargains galore for seasoned shoppers.