Yuletide scramble yet to hit

NEARLY THERE: Joyce and Robert Murray, of Stoke, get most of their Christmas shopping out of the way at Richmond Mall.
NEARLY THERE: Joyce and Robert Murray, of Stoke, get most of their Christmas shopping out of the way at Richmond Mall.

Retailers are bracing themselves for a manic Christmas shopping rush in the coming week.

With just 10 sleeps until Christmas, retailers who spoke to the Nelson Mail said shoppers had kept them constantly busy, while others have questioned when it was going to pick up.

However, most were expecting a last-minute panic to hit soon, prompting shoppers to rush out and buy gifts en masse when they realised time was running out to finish their Christmas list. It happened every year, they said.

Toyworld Nelson owner Lindsay Hicks said the Hardy St store had been constantly busy, but he expected a shopping panic to hit 10 days before Christmas.

"It just turns into panic-buying when they realise time is running out. The difference this year compared to last year is that we still have two weekends before Christmas as opposed to one."

Tasman Bay Jewellers owner Nigel Petrie, of Motueka, said the store's weekly trade in December had been double that of other months, which was in keeping with previous years.

"But we vary a lot, some days we can do $80 and others it's $10,000, but that's the nature of high-priced items," Mr Petrie said.

He expected the week before Christmas to be the busiest, which followed the trend of previous years.

Paymark, which processes about three-quarters of all electronic transactions in New Zealand, recorded the busiest shopping day this month as Friday, December 7, with just over $164 million through the tills.

Based on historical data, it expected spending through the Paymark network to rise another 33 per cent by the week ending December 24.

Consumer spending had been a mixed bag for retailers and shoppers who spoke to the Nelson Mail this week and last week.

Coastal Merchant store owner Tania Tupu said a slight pickup in consumers shopping for Christmas presents had mostly been among locals.

"In November, we thought it was a little bit slow, but our figures show it was no worse than previous years. It just had a slow feel to it, but in the past two weeks it's picked up a bit."

Other central-city retailers who declined to be named said sales in winter had sometimes been busier than trading on some days this month.

Ian Wills Jewellers, in Bridge St, said Christmas trading had yet to properly kick in, especially compared with last month, which was one of the busiest yet.

Watches and diamond earrings seemed to be the most popular Christmas gifts the store had been selling so far, he said.

At Richmond Mall last week, shoppers Robert and Joyce Murray, of Stoke, left carrying an armful of gifts.

Mrs Murray said she had mainly bought clothing and household items for her family.

"We have to pick up a couple of other things, but this is the last big one."

Richmond Unlimited events manager Kim Quint said retailers in the mall and on the main street had been busier than usual as Christmas shopping ramped up.

Nelson and Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said the number of shoppers around key retail areas had certainly picked up, likely attracted by a concentrated effort from retailers offering sales and promotions.

"Retailers are doing their best to attract shoppers with promotions, sales and attractive window displays."

However, shoppers were expected to be deliberate and considered in their spending, in light of the ongoing challenging economic environment, she said.

"A strong tourist summer season this year will be important for the ongoing vitality of many local businesses."

Paymark saw just over $1 billion pass through its network in the seven days between December 6 and 12.

Furthermore, spending in the seven days was up 4.1 per cent on the same dates in 2011, a higher-than-average annual growth rate for the year.

The Nelson Mail