‘I’d like a bag, for the lowest price possible’ How low are we talking? ‘Maybe €1,000’

Winter sales: a campaign of shock, awe and total dominance

Finn Leach (8) from Leixlip, Co Kildare, takes a break from the shopping mayhem at Arnotts department store in Dublin during the first day of the winter sales yesterday. Business was brisk on the capital’s main shopping streets, with long queues for changing rooms in several stores. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Finn Leach (8) from Leixlip, Co Kildare, takes a break from the shopping mayhem at Arnotts department store in Dublin during the first day of the winter sales yesterday. Business was brisk on the capital’s main shopping streets, with long queues for changing rooms in several stores. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw.

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 06:56


It’s 12.55pm. A man of military bearing stands alone in the handbag department of Brown Thomas. In one hand a Michael Kors bag, in the other a mobile phone. He is poised, ready to buy, but waiting for instruction from his commanding officer.

“I’m on a mission. I’ve texted her a picture of the bag, I think it’s right, but I’m waiting to hear back before I tackle the queue for the till.”

Oliver, who withholds his surname – probably for security reasons – is a man who knows how to handle a sale.

“I arrived at 12.46pm, I have been here for nine minutes, that is a successful operation. The key to sales shopping is that you’ve done it two weeks ago. You know what you want, you come in, you get it, you go.”

Oliver, originally from Scotland but living in Dublin 4, is about to spend €175 on a bag that’s down from €250. It’s a substantial outlay but it leaves him in the ha’penny place here. The real business is being done at the back of the shop where customers are queuing behind a velvet rope under a sign that reads “Gucci”.

On closer inspection it appears that none of the customers is carrying items to purchase. There is no cash desk at the end of the queue, but an entrance to another part of the shop.

“Oh no, they’re not queuing to buy, they’re just queuing to get in. We can’t let everyone one in at the same time, then there wouldn’t be enough sales consultants to assist them,” a sales assistant – sorry consultant – helpfully explains.

Magdalene Sabastian, originally from Singapore but living in Italy, waits patiently in the queue. “I know a queue seems silly, but I really want to see what’s in there. I’d like a bag or a scarf, for the lowest price possible.” How low are we talking? “Maybe €1,000 - but that would be for a bag”.

Clearly some shoppers are not versed in Oliver’s try-two-weeks-before-you-buy strategy, with queues for changing rooms snaking through several shops on Grafton Street.


No changing room
Not a problem in River Island, where the changing rooms have been shut.

“Nobody seems to mind because everyone knows the policy is that all of our stores close the fitting rooms on the 26th,” says Jessica Harrington, manager of the Grafton Street River Island. Around 50 staff are on duty today keeping order on the rails, necessary because of the huge volume of customers, she says. “We open the doors at 8am. Last year there were 10 people outside, this year about 300.”

Stepping off Grafton Street, all is calm, all is quiet. Not a great state of affairs for the odd shop that is open. Across the Ha’penny Bridge on Henry Street it’s back to business with plenty of boots on the ground.

Inside Arnotts shoe department, mother and daughter Jackie and Jennifer Pollock from Kildare are half way through their tour of duty – a campaign of shock, awe, and total dominance.

“We’ve bought make-up, creams, scarves, jumpers, shoes, bed clothes, birthday presents, we’ve been back to the car once already,” says Jennifer. She pauses to reload, Jackie takes over. “I think so far we’ve spent just over a grand between us.” It’s 2.10pm, but the expedition is far from over, says Jennifer “God no, we haven’t been to Dundrum yet.”

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