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Dublin: 1°C Saturday 23 January 2021

Handbags at dawn: We braved the Brown Thomas sale (so you didn't have to)

While the rest of the country enjoyed a lie-in, here’s what was happening on Grafton Street.

sales1 Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

LIKE THEM OR hate them, the winter sales are here.

And while joining a queue hundreds of people long the morning after Christmas may not be the Stephen’s Day activity of choice for many people, there was no shortage of willing participants this morning in Dublin city centre.

A number of fashion and leisurewear retailers chose to open today. As usual, however, the main focus was Brown Thomas. Designer brand discounts of up to 60% were advertised in the department store’s famous display windows – for some, a deal too good to leave.

At dawn 

Only a handful of people were waiting outside when TheJournal.ie first stopped by, at around 7.30. But by 8.50 – ten minutes before opening – the main queue was snaking across the street and down the road some 100 metres.

More shoppers sheltered in the doorway of the McDonald’s across from the entrance – sipping coffees, but keeping their eyes fixed on the activities of the BT staff, as they put the finishing touches on their displays.

“It’s part of the culture of the day to be here early really,” said Paul Hussey, who had made the trip from Drogheda to hit the sale and hopefully pick up a few shirts.

I always come on Stephen’s Day if I can. It’s as much the buzz as anything – and you will get a choice on the first day, there’s no doubt about that, compared to later in the week.

A young woman from Drumcondra said she and her friend had a tactic worked out, for when the doors opened.

I’m going this way – he’s going that way.

And should we expect to see people fighting over the handbags and shoes?

We saw someone got trampled on last year, didn’t we? It’s not too bad though.

Chloé and Mark Jacobs handbags were top of her list, she said: “You get around 50% off – you never get that the rest of the year.”

A final few dozen people seemed to show up from nowhere in the last seconds before the door opened – and a muted cheer went out as the security guards finally allowed the throngs inside.

bt2 Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Stories of tramplings and fistfights over bargains proved wide of the mark, once inside the store.

Though very crowded, the retail space is large enough to absorb the crowds of hundreds with relative ease.

A small army of security guards and counter staff kept tabs on activity. Some displays were even cordoned off with a rope, nightclub-style – a security man letting young women browse on a one-in, one-out basis.

At the Prada concession stand, a lengthy queue had already formed by 9.03am.

bt3 Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The fiercest competition for discounts appeared to be in the basement, in the men’s department. The place was packed, and young men gathered two-deep at the footwear stands, rifling through the runners for popular brands.

bags Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

The other guys

Brown Thomas go all-out with the promotion for their winter sales each year – and the range of high-end brands on offer means that, for a certain audience, it’s well worth an early morning trip to town.

Further up Grafton Street, other shops that also opened at 9 were far less busy – although footfall on the street had increased considerably by the afternoon.

“We aim for a quick sharp sale so we can start selling new season stock across our stores,” managing director of the Brown Thomas group Stephen Sealey said in press-released statement.

We tried chatting to shoppers too, once inside the store. But they were a little preoccupied.

Read: Christmas busking session comes to Apollo House after Grafton Street shutdown >

Read: This man ran right through Christmas night to raise money for Pieta House >

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