Silly season making tills jingle

JAZIAL CROSSLEY
Last updated 08:00 07/12/2013

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Retailers are expecting Santa to bring them more consumer dollars this year, especially on items for kids.

Kiwiana kitsch, explicit video games and robotic soft toys that interact with iPads are all hot gifts this Christmas.

Last year, $860 million was the typical total weekly spend in New Zealand across retail but that rose to $1.3 billion a week in the silly season during the eight weeks before Christmas. Shoppers are expected to be even more generous this year.

Electronic payment processor Paymark reported recently that the money spent at shops rose 8.1 per cent in the past year with a 1.7 per cent jump in October, giving a strong start to the Christmas spending season that typically happens in the last three months of the year.

"This result is a good start for retailers as they begin their pre-Christmas campaigns. We are seeing an above-average month-on-month result, which indicates that growth is happening above and beyond the usual trends," Paymark's acting chief executive Paul Whitson said.

NZ Retailers Association Auckland-based spokesman Russell Sinclair said retailers were feeling optimistic about Christmas spending this year.

"Looking around the city, the pedestrian traffic is very high at the moment, the malls are certainly trading well, the main shopping centres seem to be also doing very well. The extended hours shopping and special offers seem to be very prevalent across the market," Sinclair said.

"Christmas is the biggest gift giving time and obviously children are at the forefront of that, receiving Christmas gifts. Toy stores in general rely on Christmas for sometimes around 30 per cent of their total sales so I would think toys are doing well at the moment."

Parents are reportedly being pressured to buy Grand Theft Auto V, the R18 Playstation game released in September. It quickly became the hottest thing in gaming, breaking records for best-selling game and becoming the fastest video game to gross US$1 billion in total worldwide sales.

Tamer items for younger kids include the Furby Boom, a moving soft toy that interacts with an iPad, and figurines of 1980s cartoon characters Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that are making a comeback.

The $280+ kid-specific tablet LeapPad Ultra is also popular both at bricks and mortar retailers such as ToyWorld and online retailer Mighty Ape.

"We expect our gaming category to be very popular this year. With the recent launch of the XBox One and PlayStation 4, both these will be hot items on the wish list. The introduction of these new consoles means there are some good deals on the previous generation [PlayStation 3 and XBox 360] so we expect that this will also be a popular choice this holiday season," Mighty Ape spokesman Matt East said.

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In preparation for a busy Christmas season it has hired 40 extra temporary staff and increased its stock from 220,000 items to 350,000 items.

Retail chain The Warehouse suggests satin print boxer shorts, a beard trimmer, a fish smoker and a 1kg bag of lollies among its top gifts for men. For women it lists a recipe book by Kiwi chef Annabel Langbein, scented candles and a heart-shaped necklace.

Felt, a New Zealand online giftshop that sells items made by Kiwi craftspeople, is seeing more shoppers supporting local businesses when choosing presents, according to owner Lucy Arnold.

"Sustainable materials and desktop fabrication processes combining traditional craft skills with design and technology have been increasing in popularity. Items with a Kiwi flavour, not necessarily Kiwiana, but referencing New Zealand culture and environment, are often popular, too."

Kiwiana-themed gifts were also favourites at The Great Wellington Christmas markets, run by the organisers of the CBD weekly Wellington Underground Markets, every weekend in the capital catering to festive shoppers.

"The numbers of shoppers through the market on the weekend on both days in spite of Saturday's miserable weather clearly showed that people are after handmade, original gifts," market organisers Wellington Creative's Wendy Jasper said.

"There is also a definite acknowledgment that the money is supporting local small businesses."

Popular items included Wellington theme sayings teatowels from Matchbox Studios picturing cars tooting as they drive through the Mt Victoria tunnel, a Tui bird-shaped lamp, a jandal-shaped chalkboard with a magnet backing to apply to the refrigerator and ceramic hanging kiwi Christmas tree decorations.

Wellington department store Kirkcaldie & Stains commissioned artist Caroline Trevella, who previously created the window displays at Christchurch store Ballantynes, to decorate its streetfront festive displays this year. The animatronic sculptures depict a Kiwi Christmas story with elves, pukeko and kiwi in a $200,000 display that NZX-listed Kirks has leased for the season.

It took her five months of work, with her daughter artist Carly Trevella flying home from Sydney to help with finishing touches.

- BusinessDay

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