Fabian Demicoli

“The same as last year will not be good enough”Retailers expressing their views on sales this festiv

 Retailers expressing their views on sales this festive season – GRTU has this week surveyed a sample of its members, according to their relevance to the subject, on how they think their sales will fare during the festive season.


Almost half of the respondents said they expect this year's Christmas sales to be the same as last years. Most have added that this meant nothing good as sales last year have taken a downward plunge. Unfortunately a further 36 per cent anticipated a decrease in sales with only 19 per cent expecting their sales to increase.

Retailers expressed their feeling that the effects of the financial crises have not completely worn off and in addition the insecurity that was hampering sales last year because of the utility tariffs has not only not worn off but has become more aggravated as increases were registered for all utilities and water electricity bills have just come out. What a thoughtful Christmas present! Retailers are afraid that money put aside to buy gifts for the loved ones will now be used to settle their pending bills as people hate leaving bills pending and are scared of interests that might apply.

63% said they do not think Christmas shopping has yet started even though they admitted this might be true only for their area. Weather conditions have not helped however these also said that they were not as alarmed as Christmas shopping traditionally would start soon and they have had plenty of window shoppers during the last week, so consumers were preparing. Christmas shopping is expected to start next Monday, being it a Public Holiday and a long weekend. Many of those who however said that Christmas shopping had started said it wasn't a solid start and the shopping flow should be strengthened next Monday.

As expected two thirds of respondents said that since Christmas would come on Saturday most consumers would leave it to the very last week to make their purchases and therefore the week leading to Christmas is expected to be the busiest. Over 30% said that next week might be busier than Christmas week and a minority said that the week leading to new year would be busiest mostly because of salary and sale issues.

Those surveyed were very disappointed with the decision to issue bills just before Christmas and more so because they felt that bills were still being issued haphazardly , this time for the last two months. What predictability can the consumer have with these methods? In general consumers are ending up with less disposable income in hand and therefore spending less and concentrating only on spending what is necessary. Retailers dealing with electronic goods said they still face a huge disadvantage with the hefty eco-tax when competing with foreign goods. The increase in national contributions and the incessant unfair competition were two other factors which retailers said were not helping.

As for the retailers in the Locality outside Valletta and Sliema, they were all very disappointed that no decorations were done. They said consumers take shopping as an opportunity to go out and they like to do it where there is a nice atmosphere and they take their time and enjoy the surroundings. Another very frequent complaint was the parking problem in the majority of the Localities. Consumers want to relax and not spend hours going round in circles in a desperate attempt to find parking and get frustrated in doing so.

Most of the retailers said they tried their best to improve their chances of selling through the usual promotions such as advertising, special offers and gift packs and others have tried even more innovative, aggressive and expensive methods such more innovative window displays and products, printing of booklets, free gifts and open weeks. They also said they used all media available to them including websites and facebook. A good 17% also said they did nothing of this sort as they said, as did many of those who did special sale boosting preparations, they doubt the effectiveness of such initiatives.

GRTU also asked retailers if there was a product that was standing out as the most frequent amongst the consumer demands. This year the spotlight seems to be on LED TVs, net books, toy Characters such as Toy Story 3, and inevitably the most innovative, the cheapest and the classic perfume, silver and latest fashion accessory. Electric household goods retailers said earlier this year they had planned Gas Heaters would do well but with the increase in Gas prices, this was not likely to materialize.

GRTU takes the opportunity to wish good Christmas shopping to our readers.

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