Last-minute shopping is inevitable, but will it be make-or-break for retailers?

Black Friday a boost for retail, but it might just have brought the spend forward

Retailers have reported “fairly significant footfall” for Christmas so far, which might suggest it could be “a little bit quieter” in these last few days. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Retailers have reported “fairly significant footfall” for Christmas so far, which might suggest it could be “a little bit quieter” in these last few days. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

 

While most of the business world is winding down at this stage, it is make-or-break time for retailers who will be hoping for hoards through the doors during the last three shopping days before the holidays. Will their Christmas wish be granted though?

Seán Murphy of Retail Excellence Ireland says it depends on the sector. Traditionally, groceries, alcohol and high- end food purchases are made in this quickly-closing shopping window as families stock up before the shops shut over Christmas. Although retailers are very positive that this “crucial week” will pan out well for them, he says they won’t know for certain “until they see the stuff going out the door”.

He notes that retailers already got an unexpected fillip from the teachers’ strike at the start of the month. It seems many families with children off school hit the shops for the day, possibly spurred on by the fact that the strike coincided with the payment of child benefit.

In general, Murphy says that the “mood music” among retailers around the country is “pretty much universally positive”.

“Last year, there was a fug on consumers worrying about property tax. Although there’s been a lot of commentary on the water charge, it hasn’t had the same impact. There is more positivity and a definite appetite for the consumer to spend a little more.”

Black Friday had a major impact this year in terms of both shopping online and in physical stores, he says, “but the question is being asked: has it just brought the spend forward slightly?”

Thomas Burke of Retail Ireland, part of Ibec, tells us that retailers have noticed “fairly significant footfall” during the Christmas shopping season so far, which might suggest that things will be “a little bit quieter” during these last few days – although it’s hard to predict with certainty.

Some recent PwC research showed that Irish shoppers topped the Christmas spending league of major western economies last year, but that the level of spending had not yet bounced back to pre-crisis levels in real terms.

Burke says that while the volume of sales is up this year, consumers are looking for significant discounting, so the value of their spending is taking longer to recover. “The Irish consumer is extremely savvy at the moment,” he adds. “It’s a real battle to try and entice them to spend.”