Black Friday: Irish shoppers look online following sterling fall

Rise of pre-Christmas discounting a ‘double-edged sword’, says Irish retailer body

The post-Brexit collapse in sterling is likely to see a massive surge in people shopping on UK-based websites as Black Friday dawns.

While many traditional retailers will be gearing themselves up for a dramatic increase in footfall over the course of the day, most deals are likely to be done in the virtual world with online sales set to jump by more than two-thirds.

As many as five times more Irish people will shop online at midnight or just after on Black Friday, than on any other day of the year, according to research carried out by Littlewoods Ireland.

One of the reasons online sales are set to break records on Friday is a weakening sterling. The currency has lost about 15 per cent of its value against the euro compared with this time last year and canny consumers who buy genuine bargains on British websites could knock more than 50 per cent off the regular retail price of many big-ticket items.


According to digital marketing agency Wolfgang Digital, Irish interest in Amazon. is 30 per cent higher this year than it was 12 months ago as Irish retailers brace themselves for a "shopping swing towards English websites".

‘Double-edged sword’

While many Irish retailers – both offline and on – appear to have embraced the concept, which is barely four years old in the Republic, many are doing so with a heavy heart, according to Thomas Burke of Retail Ireland, the representative group of the sector within employers' representative body Ibec.

“It is a double-edged sword for us,” he said. “It gets people into the shopping mode and gets them thinking about Christmas shopping but it is not really great for retailers to have to discount heavily just ahead of what is the busiest shopping period of the year.”

He said many retailers felt they had little choice because consumers now expect deep discounting.

Mr Burke highlighted a large increase in ecommerce in the Republic over recent years and pointed out that more than 70 per cent of online trade was going to companies located outside the jurisdiction. “That is having a significant impact and leads to a significant loss for the retail sector but also a significant loss for the exchequer.”

He said a weak sterling would exacerbate the problem. “It is bad news for retailers but I suppose good news for consumers. Retailer margins will be taking a hit but they will just have to take that hit.”

Some shops are adopting an alternative approach to the day. “Black Friday has become a thing, without us really thinking about it,” said Anne Barber of Butterslip in Kilkenny. “We imported it, we run with it, but I just wanted to question it, or see if we can do something better with it.”

This year instead of offering a discount the store has pledged to donate 20 per cent of its sales to Médecins Sans Frontières. “I think this is a cause we can all get behind, one of innocent people living and suffering in a war zone. It doesn’t bear thinking about, but I think we have to,” she said.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast