LET THE SALES FRENZY BEGIN! Stores Bank on Retail Bonanza to Survive; Sales Bid for Survival

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Byline: Ferghal Blaney Consumer Affairs Correspondent

RECORD numbers of us will be heading out to the sales today as many of the big stores open for their first St Stephen's Day.

Retailers are hoping for a shopping bonanza after a lean run-up to Christmas, with massive discounts on offer from an unprecedented number of stores.

Most will use today's trading as the first day of what used to be the January sales.

And because St Stephen's Day falls on a Saturday, many of the major stores are simply treating it as a normal trading day.

Rather than being a special day spent with friends and family, it has effectively become the first day of the sales season. But if shoppers don't come out on to the streets to part with their ever scarcer cash, business bosses predict that 40,000 retail jobs could be lost in the next six months, twice the number that were lost in the sector in the past six months.

Half-price offers in leading stores will be commonplace with some going even further and offering 70 per cent discounts .

Brave souls who camped out overnight in sub-zero temperatures outside Clerys on O'Connell Street in Dublin will be first in the door to snatch this year's special offers, which include E2,000 couch suites and E499 oak tables for a single euro.

After one of the worst years ever for the sector, the next few days will be crucial for many businesses.

Clerys marketing manager Sarah Daly said bargain hunters would not be disappointed when the store opens its doors at ten this morning.

'This year the offers are even more spectacular than last. As always, there will be a free full Irish breakfast for the first 100 shoppers, complimentary wine with every meal throughout the day and a relaxing pamper zone for shoppers to take time out,' Miss Daly said.

Other deals at Clerys include a 32in LCD TV from D.I.D Electrical, normally marked at E399 but reduced to just E9.95.

Arnotts on Henry Street is known for its homeware offers and its winter sale also starts at 10am.

A designer Skovby table and four chairs in natural oak with one folding leaf stored under the table top was E2,825 and is now available E1,799. The Willis & Gambier Louis Philippe 5ft bateau bed at E1,799 has been reduced to E1,099 and the 6ft version from E2,099 to E1,199.

Women's designer brands such as Anglomania by Vivienne Westwood, Nicole Miller, Nanette Lepore, Aideen Bodkin and Yoana Baraschi will be reduced by 40 per cent. And for men there's 30 per cent off such brands as Full Circle, French Connection and Diesel, while Hartford, Nicole Farhi, Firetrap and DKNY jeans are reduced by 40 per cent.

There's up to 50 per cent off tailoring by Kenzo, Strellson, Remus, Ted Baker and Tommy Hilfiger.

Brown Thomas is open in Dublin and Cork today for its sale and in other branches around the country tomorrow. …