Jamaica’s retailers suffer disappointing Christmas sales
Retailers across the island say sales were low over the recent Christmas season compared to previous years.
Though stores ramped up sales promotions and offered discounts during the holiday period, inflation and the fact that Christmas Eve (traditionally the day with the highest consumer traffic) fell on a Sunday were cited among the reasons for the poor sales.
Anthony Pearson, principal of Lloyd’s Department Store in Montego Bay, St James said it was a “disappointing” Christmas season, while pointing to bad weather and the State of Public Emergency implemented in the parish as possible reasons for the lackluster sales.
“It was disappointing, very soft compared to previous years. Probably a number of things contributed to it; the weather wasn’t so good, and then the whole state of emergency situation. I think, as a result, a lot of things that were supposed to take place didn’t take place entertainment-wise and when there is no entertainment there is no need for a new shirt and a new outfit. I think a combination of things [so] it was very soft,” Pearson told Observer Online.
As for the Ammar’s Department Store, director Michael Ammar Jr stated that low sales on Christmas Eve weighed down the overall numbers. He said, however, that this is expected when December 24 falls on a Sunday and noted that, in anticipation of it, he made the decision to close the store in downtown Kingston, and had early closure for the Ammar’s store at the Sovereign Centre in St Andrew.
“The period up to Christmas Eve was what we expected. It was not spectacular but it was good. Christmas Eve was bad because it fell on a Sunday so we didn’t open our downtown store at all because it didn’t make sense, Sovereign closed at 7 instead of at 11, again because it was a Sunday and at Village and Mall is where we saw a crowd. That happens every time Christmas Eve is on a Sunday so it’s not that we didn’t expect it but it does impact our overall numbers for the season. That one day being on a Sunday, it eats into the figures,” Ammar Jr disclosed.
Ammar Jr told Observer Online that he expects that Christmas 2024 will be better as this year Christmas Eve falls on a Tuesday, a day more ideal for sales.
“But Christmas Eve 2024 will be on a Tuesday so that will be better for the stores because you get the Saturday and then you will get Sunday and Monday so this year will line up better but we knew this was going to happen and we were expecting it,” He added.
Sales figures were also low in the food and household items department. Gassan Azan, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of MegaMart Wholesale Club and Bashco Trading Company Limited, pointed to inflation as the reason for the low sales at the outlets during the Christmas season.
“It was a very flat Christmas in dollars which means that unit sales would have been down. Because costs have gone up, prices went up, so dollar sales were down,” he said.
He added that a decline in non-food items happened first, as he believes that food took priority for the majority of shoppers last Christmas.
Azan further explained that even when it came to foods bought, there was a shift in the selections made, possibly due to affordability.
He told Observer Online that the company is utilising promotions to mitigate the downward sales trajectory, but disclosed that so far in January, sales are not off to a good start.
“Well we are doing a lot of promotions but nevertheless the year has not started brilliantly either. It is still a downward trend,” the CEO said.
The reports of low Christmas sales across the traditional brick and mortar stores are in line with the assessment of informal vendors in the Corporate Area who complained that it was among the worst holiday periods on record for business.