New year sales across the country were badly affected by the deteriorating weather conditions, according to the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme).
In the latest blow for struggling Irish retailers, what should have been a rush for bargains turned into a rush for shelter, as shoppers refused to brave the freezing and wet conditions.
"There is no doubt about it, the weather is having an adverse effect on the sales. It couldn't have come at a worse time, after what was clearly a very difficult year in 2009," said Jim Curran, director of research at Irish Small and Medium Enterprises. "We were all hoping there would be a sustained period of recovery while these sales were on. But after the initial Stephen's Day rush it has all died down."
Robert Vipond and Claire O'Dowd, huddling against the rain under the canopy outside Arnotts in Dublin, said they had come in for the sales but cut their visit short.
"I strolled into town to see if I could pick up a few bargains, and I was surprised to see it so quiet. I couldn't see much in the way of massive savings, so I'm heading home, away from the weather," said Vipond.
Clothing outlets are not the only retailers to have taken a hit. The duty manager of the 3G mobile store on Henry Street said "things have never been so quiet, and we've been here six years. Shoppers are put off, even with the sales, by the weather and money problems".
Outside of Dublin, retailers have said trade is steady but that they have also suffered from the prolonged cold snap.
Anthony Ryan of Ryan's Stores in Galway said his sale started last Sunday to a huge number of customers, but died down in the days after.
"It was a very good start and we were thrilled, thinking we were on the pig's back. Unfortunately, the weather has affected us as business has dropped but we are still doing good business," he said.
A spokesperson for clothing store Funges in Gorey, Co Wexford, said business in the town remained "steady" over the course of the week.
Isme's Jim Curran said the poor sales period is going to have consequences on the rest of the year for shop owners.
"These sales were actually set to keep some businesses viable. The first quarter of 2010 is going to be very difficult.
"As a consequence of the last few days, that battle is going to be that much tougher in the year ahead."
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