Soaring energy and food prices are failing to dampen consumer appetites as the holiday season begins, according to the country’s mall operators.
Our last three weekends have probably been the highest footfall we’ve had in the center in a long time,” said Avril Smith, manager of Eyre Square Center in Galway City.
“Last Saturday we had 69,000 visitors – on Saturday alone”
This was confirmed by Dundrum Town Center director Don Nugent, who said trade in the center was “doing better than we thought”.
“Retailers are doing a strong trade and have been for some time,” Mr Nugent said. “People come with a mission. They are buyers as opposed to browsers.”
Ms Smith said attendance at Eyre Square Center is down 13 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels, but estimates this will fall to 10 per cent by the end of the year. Visitor numbers in Dundrum are down 7 per cent compared to 2019.
Mr Nugent believes this drop is partly related to fuel costs, which are discouraging shoppers from traveling as far.
Meanwhile, at Jervis shopping center in Dublin city, weekend footfall has exceeded 2019 levels, while weekday footfall has fallen slightly due to working from home, according to a spokesman.
According to center manager Shirley Delahunt, the frequency in Athlone town center is “broadly similar” to Christmas 2019.
“What we’re seeing is that spending in a lot of our units here would increase from 2019 levels,” she said.
This surge in shopping comes despite the cost of living crisis, which has seen the cost of essentials soar.
Rising inflation notwithstanding, the appetite for retail therapy is consistently higher than before the pandemic.
According to the CSO, October sales remained 3.2 percent above 2019 levels despite inflationary pressures.
Center officials also pointed to demand for categories beyond the usual gifts, with clothing purchases up due to the return of parties in the first restriction-free Christmas since 2019.
About 30 percent of customers started their Christmas shopping before mid-October
However, some habits have changed – consumers are now spreading the cost of Christmas over a few months.
While December 8th was historically known to many as the main shopping day, for some eager shoppers the festive spending began before Halloween.
“Based on some research we’ve conducted, we believe that approximately 30 percent of customers started their holiday shopping before mid-October this year,” said Mr. Nugent. That’s an increase of 18 percent over the last year.
At Jervis shopping mall, electronics retailers saw increasing demand from early November, while sports brand sales surged from late October.
This was also reflected in Athlone, where Christmas shopping now starts in mid-November ahead of Black Friday discounts.
It’s not just Christmas shoppers who are contributing to the growing spending – the reopening of borders means Ms Smith is seeing large numbers of tourists in Galway later in the season, helping to boost sales.
Retail companies are now trying to capitalize on this craze for shopping sprees across the country.
Dundrum Town Center currently has two vacancies and contracts are being finalized to fill both for the next year. “We have a number of people who wanted to come but we didn’t have a unit to give them,” Mr Nugent said, describing it as a “good challenge”.
We have a number of people who wanted to come in, but we didn’t have a unit to give them
In Eyre Square, Ms Smith points to an equally high capacity. Apart from “two or three” kiosks that are currently changing hands, the center is full.
The former Topshop unit in Jervis has also been filled and fashion brand Tessuti is opening its first flagship store in Ireland early next year. “Once this unit opens, we will be almost full,” a spokesman said.
Athlone Town Center will also welcome Sports Direct next year, which is “merging five units,” Ms Delahunt said.
Retailers across the country are keen to ride the wave of demand while it lasts, and plans for January sales are already in the works.
“Some of the UK retailers will start selling earlier due to retail business [there] was more of a challenge than here,” said Mr Nugent.
Ms Delahunt said it was “really encouraging” that the allure to visit local shops has not diminished following more online shopping during the pandemic.
“What people may not know is that malls, like us, are a huge local employer,” she added.
“Although there is so much talk and worry about next year and how things will play out with the monetary crisis, it doesn’t seem to have hit us yet,” concluded Ms Smith.
“I think everyone’s taking that and running with it at the moment.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/irish/shoppers-not-browsers-irish-consumers-defy-cost-of-living-crunch-as-christmas-ramps-up-42209198.html Shoppers instead of browsers – Irish consumers are braving the cost of living crisis as Christmas rolls on