Christmas shopping season picks up pace
With Santa’s grotto at Brown Thomas already booked out and 9am queues outside Hollister in Dundrum, it seems the Christmas shopping season is well under way.
With pay cheques boosting bank balances and a cold snap spurring coat sales, retailers say after a sluggish November sales are showing pulse.
Dublin city centre car parks at Arnotts and Brown Thomas were full to capacity last weekend shortly after noon, while Dundrum Shopping Centre opened its parking overflow at 11am on Sunday.
Sales at Brown Thomas’s Dublin outlet were “up double digits”, according to BT managing director Stephen Sealy.
“I’m pleased we’re trading well this weekend, but the next 23 days will determine the outcome of the year,” said Mr Sealy.
“If we have a bad budget on Wednesday that will have a very serious effect on business.
“I think the Government loses sight of how many people are employed in retail,” said Mr Sealy, whose retail chain employs 2,000 people directly and indirectly. “If taxes rise significantly and people are left with a lot less money in their pocket, it is going to reflect retail and it is going to affect employment.”
“It’s all to play for between now and Christmas, and clearly the budget couldn’t be at a worse time for retailers.”
Meanwhile the store’s gift-wrapping service is in full swing and although its in-store Santa is not receiving visitors until December 8th, places are already booked up. The €5 entry fee goes to the ISPCC.
In Dundrum Town Centre queues had formed outside US retailer Hollister by 9am on Saturday. Centre director Don Nugent said footfall at the centre was up on last year, with customers responding to discounts.
“People are conscious of budget,” he said. “What we saw last year after the budget was a sense of ‘I don’t like where I’m at, but at least I know where I’m at’ – I think it will be a similar trend this year.”
The centre’s Santa, this year located at toy store Hamleys, was also busy. At €12 per child, the visit includes a photograph and a gift. Children can also book breakfast, lunch or tea with the big guy and 19 other children for €25.
Meanwhile on Dublin’s Henry Street casual Christmas traders selling wrapping paper and toys were unhappy with a doubling of their licence fee by Dublin City Council from €250 to €500. “It’s an ongoing battle; they are trying to get us out of here. That’s the impression you get,” said a trader selling Christmas lights and wrapping paper.
“I think the council is being pressured by the bigger shops, I’m sure they give them more revenue than we do … but I don’t know why because if we weren’t here the atmosphere wouldn’t be as good.”