Christmas spirit finally arrives in Belfast - thanks to Primark
LEOPARD print stilettos, Tinkerbell Christmas baubles and woolly hats with massive fur pom-poms on top - Primark was back in all its glory in Belfast city centre at the weekend and shoppers were celebrating with bulging baskets.
With everything from Christmas head-boppers and Mary Poppins cosmetic bags to lazy arm tablet holders and festive throws on offer, everyone's favourite retail store breathed life back into the city within minutes of opening the doors to its new store at Commonwealth House in Castle Street at 9am on Saturday.
With more than 1,000 people in the queue to be among the first to snap up the fashion chain's famous deals, there were similar scenes yesterday when the store - housed it what is an extension of Bank Buildings - opened at 1pm to customers.
A steady stream of excited shoppers, who had been offered free tea and coffee outside, filtered through the doors to the snazzy new store, which welcomed customers on the ground floor with a colourful Christmas jumper display.
Those who had been up early and waiting for the store to open were already in the long, long queues to pay at the tills as throngs of new customers arrived, many commenting on the bright and modern new store.
Huge numbers of shoppers flooded the ladieswear, lingerie, childrenswear, mens, homeware and accessories departments, which could be accessed up the busy stairwells or equally bunged lifts.
However, the biggest crowds - unsurprisingly - were found in the nightwear department, where many customers, some of whom had travelled from towns and villages around the north, laid claim to Primark's famous festive jammies, slippers and cosy socks.
One woman revealed she had abandoned her scheduled housework to travel from her home in Portadown to Primark for a pre-Christmas shop.
"The housework can wait," she said.
"I'm so glad it's back open. Belfast just isn't Belfast without Primark."
Outside the store, by 1.45pm, queues had formed and more and more customers arrived in large clusters, eager to get inside the new shop.
Castle Street, which suffered substantially in the aftermath of the Primark with the footfall all but vanishing, appeared to be regaining life.
With only a handful of businesses open, customers showed their support by doing some shopping, as they left Primark, in the nearby Oxfam store and Maggie May's café, in Castle Street.
Primark also gave a supportive boost to The West café in the street, paying them to provide customers with free tea and coffee as they queued to get into the store.
Elsewhere in the city centre, crowds of shoppers - many carrying packed Primark bags, had joyfully returned to the streets that have lain dormant in recent months.
With carols filling the air outside CastleCourt and Primark back in business, Christmas finally arrived in Belfast - long may it last.