There may still be four full shopping days left to Christmas, but it seems that anxious retailers aren’t taking any risks this year. Yes the January sales have come early to Dublin’s Grafton Street, as retailers adopt the policy of getting in early and shifting their stock now, rather than waiting for the traditional New Year period, when there might be more offers and more competition for people’s money.
Along the length and breadth of Dublin's premium shopping street, retailers including Brown Thomas, the Disney Store and Levi's, have put up the sale signs and started discounting their stock.
Lynn Drumgoole, communications director with Retail Excellence Ireland, says the early sales are indicative of "quite a soft Christmas", with most sectors trading down by about 5-8 per cent on 2015, and says the overall retail environment is "concerning".
“Retailers are trying to get some margin in this side of Christmas,” she says, noting that the decline is down to a number of factors including mild weather, uncertainty arising from Brexit, and Donald Trump’s election which is hitting consumer sentiment, and the fact that discounting started so early this year in the run-up to Black Friday at the end of November.
Consumer behaviour is also changing.
“Consumers are more savvy looking around for a discount, and are more aware that discounts can be around for longer than they used to be,” Drumgoole said.
A weakening sterling has also hit retailers hard, with money either going to the North or to the UK via online shopping, while online retailing has had a “significant impact”.
Drumgoole is hopeful that with online now out of the equation given the short amount of time to Christmas Day, bricks and mortar retailers will see a pick-up in sales.
So if you’re heading to Grafton Street this week, where can you find the deals?
One of the street's largest retailers, Brown Thomas, has continued a trend which saw it offer 20 per cent off "almost everything" during a special long weekend in the run-up to Christmas. Now it has discounts across the store, including up to 30 per cent off selected handbags, including DKNY; up to 40 per cent off children's shoes; up to 50 per cent off Christmas decorations; plus up to 50 per cent off selected womenswear.
Brown Thomas is also running the discount "Brand Store" in the old BT2 store on the street. It's now offering discounts of up to 80 per cent due t o its imminent closure to make way for the arrival of US lingerie chain Victoria's Secret, but consumers shouldn't expect the same brands that are available in the flagship Brown Thomas store.
Marks & Spencer is selling off its Christmas decorations at a discount of 50 per cent, so hurry in if you want to get stocked up with cards, crackers and wrapping paper for Christmas 2017 - now that's organised.
Parents looking for some last minute stocking fillers could rush to the Disney Store, where a wide range of discounts are available. While the ever-popular Star Wars range is included in the discounts, some of the best discounts are on less well known franchises.
Up in the Stephen's Green shopping centre, the newly refurbished Benetton is offering discounts of up to 30 per cent on women's and children's clothes, with a further mark-down expected once the store re-opens after Christmas.
The discounts have even come to jewels; Paul Sheeran in the Powerscourt Centre is offering "up to 50%" off selected lines,
At fashion retailer Reiss, the sale is in full swing, with the store's autumn/winter collection being sold off at discounts of up to 50 per cent to make way for the brand's new collection
Other retailers in the Grafton Street area offering discounts on the street include Oasis, Coast, Levi’s, Boss, Monsoon, Sisley, Rockport, French Connection, and Dune.
The only stores apparently immune to the rash of pre-Christmas price culls are those owned by the global retail powerhouses - and our own Dunnes Stores. Yes the sale at H&M owned & Other Stories, which opened its Grafton Street store in early December, has not yet begun, although shoppers can avail of a 10 per cent discount if they purchase and return the packagaging from cosmectics. Across the street, there are no signs of red sale signs at Massimo Dutti, owned by Spanish retailing giant Inditex, with these retailers expected to wait until the traditional sales period in January. Dunnes Stores is also holding out - for now - with neither its Grafton Street store or its outlet in Stephen's Green shopping centre offering discounts. Its range of Christmas decorations are still at full price, although given the pressure to cut prices, one would expect the retail giant to swing the axe at some point before the shops close for Christmas.
Across the river on Henry Street, Arnotts has some good offers with up to 50 per cent off Paul Costelloe menswear, 10 per cent off beauty gift boxes and up to 30 per cent childrenswear. While not all womenswear brands are discounted, there are some good deals to be had, with up to 50 per cent off Hobbs, Ikks, Reiss and French Connection, up to 40 per cent off Jaeger and LK Bennett, 30 per cent Gerard Darel and 40 per cent off Halston.