Tauranga shops wish for happy Christmas

By Brendan Manning

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Local retailers are looking forward to Christmas to rejuvenate their businesses after a "flat" year, an industry spokeswoman says.

Main Street vice-chairwoman Anne Pankhurst said many shops had been struggling to survive while other kinds of businesses did "quite well".

Retailers relied heavily on Christmas trade and the influx of tourists and visitors that summer brought, Ms Pankhurst added.

"I would suspect that most of the retail sector are looking forward to Christmas to rejuvenate and get a sense of positivity."

Ms Pankhurst's anticipation came as a survey found money worries would prompt most New Zealanders to tighten their purse-strings ahead of Christmas.

The Dun & Bradstreet Consumer Credit Expectations Survey measures likely spending, savings and debt patterns. The online survey quizzed people aged 18 to 64 last month and more than half the 930 respondents were worried about their financial situation.

Only 5 per cent were more likely to buy non-essential items, such as entertainment or beauty treatments this year than last, while 63 per cent were avoiding major purchases such as a new car, TV, renovations or holiday. A further 18 per cent planned to delay a purchase they had previously intended to make.

Dun & Bradstreet New Zealand general manager John Scott said the data showed consumers would remain conservative on spending at a time when most retailers hoped to see a surge in sales.

"We are seeing increased concern about consumer finances flowing through to expectations for spending and credit usage.

"The cost of living is rising, and heightened caution since the global financial crisis has encouraged many New Zealanders to save, or pay down their debt, rather than spend. As a result, most consumers are adopting a prudent approach this Christmas."

The survey's findings follow an increase in the Consumer Price Index, with basic items such as electricity and vegetables becoming more expensive.

More than a quarter of those surveyed said they anticipated difficulties paying bills in the December quarter. "Many New Zealanders struggle with elevated levels of debt and are dependent on each pay cheque to fund day-to-day expenses," Mr Scott said.

However, Louise Evans McDonald from the New Zealand Retailers' Association backed Ms Pankhurst's optimism. She said the survey was a premature forecast given most shoppers were yet to think about Christmas shopping.

"As we get closer to the occasion, more people will be caught up in the emotion and hype of spending time with family and sharing gifts."

It had been a tough year for retailers due to increased insurance premiums and the cost of strengthening buildings against earthquakes.

"However, there has still been growth in the retail sector year on year."

Tauranga retailer Suzie Glover, owner of Lilies Floral Boutique, said her business had not been too badly affected by the difficult economic times but she was looking forward to the next few months as sales definitely picked up in the Christmas period.

"Last year I found October and November were when people bought Christmas presents. The last three weeks of December there was hardly anyone because they'd already done their shopping."

Kimberly Clark, owner of Scene in the City, said sales during the year had been steady but summer brought more people into the city and she expected that to translate into increased business.

"Christmas is definitely a boost at the end of the year. It's a good time of year."

Rachel Masters, owner of Greystreet Flower Company, said her business had not been as badly impacted by the recession as others. However, there were seasonal factors.

"For a florist summer is typically better than winter so we are looking forward to Christmas. It's one of our best times of the year."


Key findings


54 per cent of Kiwis worry about their financial situation.

68 per cent plan to avoid spending on non-essentials in December.

5 per cent are more likely to buy non-essential items such as beauty treatments and entertainment around Christmas.

63 per cent intend to avoid making major Christmas purchases (a new car, TV, home renovations or a holiday).

18 per cent plan to delay a purchase they had previously intended to make.

25 per cent would be unable to survive for longer than a month on their savings if they lost their job tomorrow.

- Source: Dun & Bradstreet

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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