Retailers enjoy 'best Christmas in years'
The country may be in wind-down mode for Christmas but it was not evident on Dublin’s Henry Street yesterday as last-minute shoppers milled around and traders tried loudly to convince them of their need for One Direction merchandise.
The overall message from retailers in the run-up to Christmas was a positive one. Retail Ireland director Stephen Lynam said its members had experienced trade similar to or better than last year.
“And last year was better than the year before that – if you remember, everybody was snowed in two years ago – so, if our reality matches the optimism out there among retailers, this year is shaping up to be the best Christmas in several years,” he said, adding that the increase was most pronounced in Dublin.
However, he said retail sales would probably not reach Celtic Tiger levels again, adding that sales overall were down 25 per cent on the boom: “The days of walking down Henry Street where you couldn’t move, those days are over.”
At least part of the increase in trade in Dublin was a result of people travelling from Belfast due to a favourable exchange rate and unrest caused by protests following the city council’s decision to limit the flying of the United Kingdom’s flag at City Hall.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said there was “no doubt the protests had resulted in less trade being done” in Belfast, adding that many people had consequently either bought online or gone to out-of-town outlets or to the Republic to shop.
“It’s been a bad end to a bad year – many retailers were hoping for a good Christmas but in Belfast, for many, that obviously wasn’t the case,” he said.
On Henry Street, last-minute shoppers had helped boost retailers’ trade. Sharon Mohan, operations manager at Arnotts, said Christmas momentum had built significantly last week.
“As usual the trend this weekend has been a huge number of men in buying in our beauty, jewellery and accessory departments. Business has been difficult this year, but we have seen an increase in business this week on the same period last year and we’re happy with how we’ve ended up,” she said.
However, a sample of traders operating on Henry Street said trade was down: “You wouldn’t be able to walk up that road any other year,” one woman said.
Shopper Lorna Tracey from Dublin said she felt this Christmas was busier than previous years: “It was actually difficult to walk on the streets last week, it was that busy,” she said.
Her daughter Emma, however, was not in the mood to chat: “We have to go and buy a pair of red sparkly shoes,” she insisted with some urgency, proving that at least one person was definitely in the mood for shopping.