“There is no way to sugarcoat this. We apologise!” the Humanic shoe store company, which operates more than 60 stores in Austria and dozens more abroad, said on its Facebook page Monday.
Pictures of long lines outside one of Humanic's stores in Vienna on Saturday had prompted outrage online.
With a soaring number of coronavirus infections and hospitals warning of looming exhaustion of intensive care resources, the government has imposed a second lockdown which will start on Tuesday.
Humanic initially thanked people for flocking to its stores and defended its pre-lockdown sale as an effort to “make people happy”.
The backlash was swift, with close to 2,000 comments on one Facebook post.
“I hope Humanic management donates some of today's revenues to its employees' healthcare costs, to ventilators for hospitals and a few funerals,” one user wrote, while another commented: “Unbelievably irresponsible! Shame on you!”
Humanic admitted on Monday that the special sale had been “short-sighted”.
Two major furniture stores, Kika and XXXLutz, ran similar ads promising discounts of up to 50 percent on Monday, the “very very last chance” to shop in store before the lockdown comes into effect.
One XXXLutz branch in the province of Salzburg draw the ire of the governor for luring thousands of customers to a re-opening with special discounts on Saturday, causing traffic jams that stretched to the motorway exit.
Though legally allowed, the event was “extremely provocative and insensitive,” the governor, Wilfried Haslauer, said.
On Vienna's main Mariahilfer Strasse shopping street on Monday, customers could be seen waiting outside stores to take advantage of the last shopping day before lockdown, despite the risks.
“I still have to do some shopping for Christmas and since it's unclear how long the lockdown will last, I hope I can find something today,” shopper Brigitte told AFP.