Coats, wallpapers and slippers: those “fashionable” items from the past

Our preoccupation with Black Friday may be new, but we’ve always been interested in a bargain

A TRAWL through the advertisements in The southern star coinciding with Black Friday reveals some slight differences from our sales forecast today.

Once an all-American event for bargain hunters to pick up a few sneaky Christmas presents, Black Friday has become a global tech and fashion phenomenon.

Popular items this year include cordless vacuum cleaners, smartwatches, 85-inch ultra HD TVs and video doorbells. For a fraction of their normal price, we can pick up some highly coveted items that pamper our obsession with brand names.

Black Friday once suffered from a rather negative image. Philadelphia police first used the phrase in the 1950s, to describe the chaos the day after Thanksgiving when hordes of euphoric, cash-flushed (“in the dark”) shoppers flooded the city and that shoplifters took advantage of the chaos. to leave with goodies at very reduced prices.

Since then, the day has morphed first into a four-day event, stretching into Cyber ​​Monday, and now, it seems, into a month-long frenzy, with amazing daily deals.

When it was introduced, Black Friday was special. But today’s world is full of sales. Stores start the year with their New Year’s sales (often leftover Christmas sales), and continue with Spring sales (early and late), Summer sales – ditto, Fall sales – ditto , the back-to-school sales, the Halloween sales, and close the year with the Christmas sales.

When exactly are there no sales?

Who would be stupid enough to buy something that hasn’t been discounted? The uniqueness of sales has disappeared.

In the past, sales seem to have been different beasts. They were held occasionally and had a clear start and end date, usually one to three weeks later, or when supplies ran out.

Discounts were not on luxury goods but generally on basic clothing. Unlike today’s amazing “up to 70%” savings, reductions used to be much more modest, often as little as 10%, and never more than half.

The first mention of a sale in The southern star occurs on October 8, 1892 when Morrissey’s of Bandon gave readers the opportunity to “save a few pounds” by purchasing boots, shoes and slippers “at a genuine discount”.

On October 7, 1893, John J. O’Connell, 19 The Square, Skibbereen, announced the opening of his “great annual sale” the following Saturday with the somewhat exorbitant claim: “The wonders will never cease”.

Her prices were apparently 20% cheaper than any other clothing store. The tweeds, for which you would normally shell out 2 shillings and 4 pence each, could be yours for a small price at 1 shilling and 6 pence – with a two-year guarantee.

Customers were attracted by clever advertising slogans such as “don’t miss this opportunity”, “incredible deals”, “huge discounts”, and “this is the real cheap sale” with “sensational offers” that cannot be repeated. “Be sure to see our windows,” Drimoleague draper TJ Daly advised in 1949. “A visit will reward you.

Ads sometimes referred to seconds or “slightly dirty” merchandise.

The 1960s and 1970s were often marked by sales specializing in furniture and furnishings – cabinets and convertible sofas, rugs and wallpaper. Suddenly, in the 1980s, electrical appliances began to find their way to retail floors. Washing machines and dishwashers, fridges and freezers, jostled for space with VHS recorders and state-of-the-art 22-inch color televisions.

Customers would normally pay for sale items in cash. But in some outfits, like John Atkins at Dunmanway, “loan facilities” were available for more expensive goods. Weekly payments could also be made at Con Ronan electrical stores in Cullinagh and Dunmanway.

Yet despite their differences, today’s Black Friday deals and the sales of yesteryear have several characteristics in common. They shared an effective advertising campaign that offered consumers highly desirable products and informed them how easy they could get them – traditionally at local West Cork stores, now just a ‘click away’. The thrill of getting a bargain, coupled with the lingering fear of missing out, is probably forever. And above all, there is the age-old hype of the commodity. When O’Connell’s of Skibbereen proclaimed in 1893, “We have the greatest wonder of modern times,” it wasn’t a pet dog security camera with intelligent night vision, two-way audio and sound detection. human movements, but rather a beautiful warm coat in Irish tweed all wool.

Boots, shoes and slippers were among the items in West Cork’s first shop sale, recorded in The Southern Star in 1892.