Wallets in the firing line as hostilities resume


There was mayhem at Arnotts and frissons at Ann Summers as Dublin's stores reopened

Air temperatures were a whopping 25 per cent down for the first day of the winter sales, but it would take more than a chill wind to make the Irish fall out of love with shopping.

Barely 60 hours after the pre-Christmas splurge ended, the post-Christmas splurge began yesterday, and Dubliners responded to the reopening of the stores like East Germans fleeing the dark days of communism.

The traditional ceasefire between God and Mammon had been well enough respected in the capital.

But the era when it lasted a full three days is history.

As is now usual, clothes chain Next announced the formal resumption of hostilities with a 5am start.

Brown Thomas escalated the action at 9am. And by the time Arnotts threw open its doors at 11.30am, not even UN intervention would have restored peace.

In the madness that was Arnotts in mid-afternoon, the operations manager looked like the cat that got the cream. "Exceptional," he said of the opening four hours. You could tell he wasn't exaggerating. The sale's epicentre appeared to be the ladies' shoe department, although the whole ground floor was a seething vortex of female humanity.

From there, mercifully, the intensity fell with every floor you climbed. Up in the furniture department, there were still bargains on offer. But the teenage boys trying out reclining massage chairs (reduced to just €2,585) and the husbands lounging on cut-priced sofas looked less like bargain hunters than refugees from the front.

Henry Street was wall-to-wall with sales. Even the month of December had been reduced to clear at HMV, which had launched its "January sale" several days early. But almost as striking as the extent of the sales were the prices that weren't cut.

In the Ann Summers sex store on O'Connell Street, the adult toys section - where products range from the Rampant

Rabbit to the Lusty Licker - was conspicuously excluded from

the sale. On the other hand, the sense of shame that once attached to such objects has, like the price of a discontinued line, been dramatically reduced.

Couples and individuals of both sexes browsed calmly yesterday and asked advice from assistants as they would with light fittings. Other sales proclaim "everything must go". The Ann Summers sale suggests everything does go, now.

Across the Liffey and a world away, the Brown Thomas sale was not universal either. A sharp-suited young man at the Louis Vuitton counter said that, no, the tags hadn't gone missing. The brand just doesn't do sales.

Yet even here, crowds milled eagerly, like sharks excited by the smell of blood in the surrounding waters. "Phenomenal," said a BT spokeswoman of the first day.

Again, much of the excitement was in the women's shoe department, where a typical bargain was a pair of Jimmy Choo snake-skins with four-inch heels, reduced from €990 to €665. Pat Fogarty ("Mrs") from Dungloe gazed lovingly.

"They're beautiful - I'd buy them if I hadn't these already," she said, pointing at her own shoes, which were indeed strikingly similar.