'Crazy' days as shoppers pack CBD

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 13:00 23/12/2013
shopping
MARTIN DE RUYTER / Fairfax NZ
As Shoppers pack the Nelson Market on Sunday, Richard Carruthers (bottom left), dressed as the "Summer Santa", hands out treats with his daughter.

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Christmas came early for retailers in Nelson as they reaped the benefits of a last-minute rush on presents during the weekend.

Nelson Market founder Nita Knight described Saturday morning's market as "almost like a celebration". She said the market had a good selection of locally-produced gifts and food for Christmas, and she was particularly excited about the fresh cherries, strawberries and boysenberries.

Ms Knight said the market had been busier than usual for the past two Saturdays, and stallholders had excelled in the way they presented their wares.

"It's been really, really busy. It seemed like a really happy atmosphere."

Atawhai man Richard Carruthers, dressed as the "Summer Santa" in jandals and shorts, was at the market on Saturday with his daughter Michaela, who wore a "Christmas Angel" costume. The pair handed out lollies, handshakes and goodwill to shoppers.

"It's a real buzz," Mr Carruthers said. "It's great fun to go around and shake everybody's hand that you can shake. They snap out of that shopping daze when they're thinking, ‘What to buy, what to buy? Oh, it's Santa'."

Carruthers said he enjoyed meeting people from the northern hemisphere who had never seen a summer Santa before.

Richmond Mall manager Belinda de Clercq said the atmosphere at the mall was "crazy" as shoppers took advantage of the free parking and late opening hours. Tonight is the last night the mall will remain open until 8pm.

She said the weekend's foot traffic was up 30 per cent compared to the same weekend last year, which she thought was due to families from out of town coming to finish their Christmas shopping at the town's new Kmart store.

"It's definitely a lot busier".

Ms de Clercq said the mall's two supermarkets and other food retailers continued to do well, and sales were booming for coffee shops and jewellers. Watches were a popular Christmas gift this year.

There was a split between fashion retailers, with some seeing an increase in business and others struggling, she said. This was down to what kind of clothing customers wanted. "If they have the right product, they'll get the customers in the store. It's a really mixed bag."

Page & Blackmore co-owner Peter Rigg said the Nelson bookstore was "absolutely flat out". Takings were 5 to 10 per cent up on last year, and the most popular books were Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries, followed by Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.

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"It's very nice to see people still buying paper books," said Mr Rigg. "It restores my faith in humanity."

Hogeys Surf store owner John Hogey said there had "absolutely" been a Christmas stampede this month.

He said there was a traditional pattern to Christmas shopping. Sales became busy in early December as customers stocked up on presents ahead of time. This was followed by a dip that lasted around two weeks - "which traditionally happens, but it freaks us all out" - before the final rush started about eight days before Christmas.

"It's so much fun. I love the Christmas shoppers; they're really happy and open to helpers."

He said last year was "mental", but this year business was about 30 per cent up on that.

Watches were the most popular item purchased as Christmas presents this year, with Mr Hogey saying he thought they were perceived as "more of a special present".

- Nelson

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