Retailers report lacklustre Christmas

BY SHAMILLE SCOTT Business reporter

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

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SHOPPERS purchased what they needed and nothing extra over the holidays, some retailers say.

Items such as clothes and shoes topped the most-bought list during the Yuletide season, according to Francis Kennedy, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.

"Though consumers bought presents, they shied away from expensive items," he said. "It hasn't been good, most of the merchants say their sales were less or same as last year."

Sales were low compared to last year," said Carol Pessoa-Collister, managing director of Go West.

"The perception that Jamaicans spend a lot during Christmas was certainly not the case this year," she said.

The Go West manager figures that persons were conserving their cash for the new year, given that prices have gone up for key goods, such as chicken and cement.

On the other hand, she thinks that most of the shopping may have taken place earlier, and not locally, through online sales around popular US shopping holiday, Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which is in November).

Another factor, which may have dampened sales this year, is the absence of a general election, which in December 2011 may have boosted sales.

Sachel Carby, director at Carby's said the sales were better during the Christmas elections.

There was a fall-off in sales by about 30 per cent, he said, and those who spent gravitated to the cheaper items.

"Nobody wanted to spend without a sale," said Carby. "We gave discounts in order for them to buy."

Wholesale club MegaMart saw an increase in traffic compared to last year, said its Chief Executive Officer Gassan Azan but spending was down compared to last year by about nine per cent.

"People didn't have the disposable income," he said.

Department store, Ammar's reported the Christmas sales that were just about the same as last year.

"I thought it would have been an awful Christmas, but it turned out pretty well," said Michael Ammar, director at Ammar's. "I'd say we were victorious."

But his store mainly sells clothes, shoes and housewares, which were a among shoppers' focus this year.

"People seemed to be fixing up their homes," he said. "We saw reasonable sales in women's, men's and children's tops."

Paint company Edgechem saw good results in sales because of traditional home improvement during the holidays.

The introduction of new colours at Edgechem boosted sales making this Christmas a better one for the company, its Marketing Manager Paul Alexander said.

Meanwhile, Fontana Pharmacy's Managing Director Kevin Chang is giving thanks.

"All things considered, I'm grateful," he said.

The sales at the Montego Bay and Mandeville stores turned out fine, and considering the climate in Mandeville with bauxite workers out of a job, that store performed reasonably during the season, he said.

With last year being a much quieter year in the retail environment, Appliance Traders Limited (ATL) was able to reap success this year, said Andrea Thomas, ATL Sales Manager.

"We have seen an increase in sales this Christmas over that of 2011," she said.

ATL's supply of turnkey solutions for the commercial market was a favourite for new restaurant owners, who seized the opportunity to open new locations for the Christmas season, according to Thomas.

With New Year's Eve as the last shopping day for the season, the JCC president believes that merchants may make it in value, but not in volumes.




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