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'It has never been a better time to be an Irish shopper': Retailers struggle as prices fall

Retail Ireland said many shops had been hit by competition from UK based online retailers and cross border trade.

IRISH RETAILERS ARE relying on the Christmas sales to prop up their profits if they are to meet expectations, it was warned.

Many firms, according to Retail Ireland, are struggling to hit targets they had set themselves at the start of the year. Business groups had estimated that there would be an increase of €160 million spent in comparison to last year.

However, feedback from shop owners has suggested that there needs to be some late spending if firms are going to have a successful 2016.

Retail Ireland said many shops had been hit by competition from UK-based online retailers and cross-border trade. The body also claimed it has never been a better time to be an Irish shopper due to increased disposable income and lower prices.

No stampedes

The Christmas sales began not so much with a bang but with more of a whimper yesterday morning as many of the larger department stores opened their doors to bargain-hungry shoppers.

There was the usual hustle and bustle outside the likes of Arnotts and Brown Thomas in the capital, where trading was brisk but well-behaved.

Christmas shopping A shopper carries bags past Brown Thomas on Dublin's Grafton Street. PA Wire / PA Images PA Wire / PA Images / PA Images

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

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.

Challenges

Thomas Burke, director of Retail Ireland said that “the sector is struggling to meet growth targets due to challenging trading conditions”.

Earlier this year, the group had indicated a rise in consumer spending in the region of 3.5% over the Christmas period. Had this been realised, it would have significantly boosted sales by over €160 million this December.

BT shoppers Shoppers on St Stephen's Day. Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Burke added: “2016 has been the proverbial tale of two halves for Irish retailers. While the first six months of the year saw sustained growth in the sector, the mid-point of the year marked a significant slow down in this growth trajectory. Unfortunately it would appear that this trend has continued into the Christmas period.

Increased disposable income and a growing number of people in work means it has never been a better time to be an Irish shopper.

Retailers have noticed particular trends in recent months which have affected trade.

They included:

  • Intense competition in the grocery sector with consumers benefitting from deep discounting as supermarkets battle for footfall
  • Sales in fashion and footwear has been heavily impacted by unseasonably mild weather in recent weeks
  • Significant competition from UK-based online retailers has impacted performance of categories such as books, fashion and electronics
  • Extension of Black Friday sales to cover most of the pre-Christmas period has shifted dynamics in the sector

Burke added: “Retailers have been discounting prices heavily in recent weeks with pre-Christmas sales now seemingly the norm in the sector.

Read: Unwanted Christmas gifts? Here’s a way to donate them to homeless people >

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

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