Christmas is just a month away, the decorations are up at stores across the city, but shoppers are unlikely to buy their gifts just yet, unless they're tempted by significant discounts.
Massey University consumer behaviour senior lecturer Andrew Murphy says that, apart from a few organised shoppers, most people will put off their buying until the last minute.
Many felt they lacked the time, and others were so used to sales that they refused to shop without a discount, he said yesterday.
"Customers that have left things to the last minute have actually benefited from that in the last couple of years as retailers have had the pre-Boxing Day sales," Dr Murphy said.
"One of the fears retailers have is that what they're really training their customers to do is wait for the sales."
Briscoe Group managing director Rod Duke said his stores saw pockets of sales as early as October, but peak Christmas-gift buying usually correlated with the start of school holidays.
Mothers were normally the chief present-buyers, and with growing numbers returning to work, many waited until the end of term to turn their attention to Christmas presents. Some schools finished as late as December 20, so a late rush was on the cards.
Mr Duke, a last-minute shopper himself, advised people to beat the rush. "Don't wait for the last week. You run the risk of stores being absolutely packed . . . and merchandise being sold out."
At Kirkcaldie & Stains, the Christmas store windows and the opening of its specialty Christmas shop helped to bring in a steady flow of customers from the start of December, managing director John Milford said.
But the store was expecting a last-minute rush, particularly for cosmetics and lingerie.
Those organised enough could take advantage of three special-offer days the store would run on Tuesdays from December 4.
And for the first time, with a cruise ship in port on December 26, the store would open for a Boxing Day "event".
Monday will be the last mailing date for Christmas parcels sent by economy post to Europe, North America and the South Pacific. Parcels to Australia can be sent until the next Monday, December 3.
We asked shoppers in Wellington when they do their Christmas shopping, what was the best time to shop for gifts and do they factor Boxing Day sales into their shopping plans?
Brian Kelly, 61, Auckland, broadcaster: Hasn't started Christmas shopping yet. "I usually wait to Christmas Eve, believe it or not." Avoids the Boxing Day sales. "I tried it once, and it was just crazy. I thought, no, I don't want to do this on Boxing Day."
Amy Terry, 17, Kingston, student: Usually starts her gift-buying a week or two before the day. "Though me and my mum usually do end up on Christmas Eve running around the shops trying to get last-minute things." Loves the Boxing Day sales.
Shennae O'Boyle, 23, Te Aro, student: Usually starts shopping in the week leading up to Christmas. "I try not to buy for too many people. I can't afford it." Thinks the best time to buy is the Boxing Day sales, but finds them too stressful. "I try to avoid them."
Liam Gilbertson, 22, Normandale, student: Begins his gift-buying a day or two before the day. "I actually get really frustrated when I see shopping malls putting up Christmas decorations in October." The Boxing Day sales are the best time to buy. "A lot of friends of mine have Christmas about a week after because you get all the cheap presents on Boxing Day."
Penny Anderson, 71, Whanganui, retired: Is normally organised, buying presents at sales throughout the year. "What I buy is on special, always, everything." But hasn't bought any presents this year. Went to the Boxing Day sales for the first time last year, for a bargain on a television.
- The Dominion Post
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