Christmas shoppers were out in force as record sales are predicted


Christmas shoppers were out in force during the weekend, the second busiest in the year, and retailers are predicting record sales for the festive season over previous years.

In Dublin, retailers reported that shoppers are definitely spending more than last year. Estimates vary from between 10 per cent to 15 per cent of an increase. Last year it was calculated that about £600 million had been spent in Dublin retail outlets by December 23rd.

If the increases this year hold for the run up to Christmas, it will be the fifth year of retail sales increases. Mr Brian Goff, chairman of the Dublin City Centre Business Association, said the outside shopping centres like Liffey Valley, Blanchardstown and The Square, Tallaght, had their role to play but as regards the city centre "the figures I'm hearing are that sales are up 10 to 15 per cent on last year." The store manager of Clery's, Mr Shaun Rippington, said the sales trend last year had continued even though there was severe pressure from out of town centres.

They were not seeing the same increases as for instance from 1996 to 1997 but they were about an average of three per cent to six per cent up on last year, he said.

The general manager of Roche's Stores in Henry Street, Mr Aidan Grehan, said that sales were up on previous years. In 1996, for instance, the Blanchardstown Shopping Centre opened and that seemed to have had an effect but it appeared people were returning to the city centre. The marketing manager at Arnott's, Mr Bill Kelly, said: "With less than two weeks to go, it's now serious shopping. The figures are up significantly on last year," he said. He attributed the increase to the expansion of the store.

It is the same story in Cork. Bumper credit card spending, bumper crowds and bumper profits - that was the forecast from the Cork Business Association yesterday after the weekend's trading in the city, writes Dick Hogan. Mr James O'Sullivan, a spokesman for the association, with 200 members, said one noticeable trend this year was that many people from outside the county were using Cork to shop. "We are seeing lots of people from Waterford, Limerick, Kerry and parts of Tipperary, and we believe this is because Cork is such a compact city and easy to get around.

"This year, the level of credit card spending is up and when people use credit cards to shop, they normally spend a little extra. Generally, the traders are very upbeat about shopping this Christmas and the expectation is that the figures will be well up on last year," he said.

He added: "It is too early yet to say what the final outcome will be; but the pointers are very good and we think our members will not have much to complain about when the final tally is done." In Limerick, traders are experiencing a busy pre-Christmas period with traffic jams in the search for parking, writes Brian McLaughlin.

The city has 700 extra parking spaces in the new £20 million Cornmarket Development and approximately £5 million is expected to be spent by consumers. The city centre has also a new £100,000 Christmas lighting system and Gardai are mounting a zero tolerance pre-Christmas campaign. To underline the fact that Christmas is not always a season of goodwill, the 4 ft-high stuffed toy, Barney The Dinosaur, was stolen in daylight from Eason's in Cruises Street on December 8th.