Solid start lifts retailers' Christmas hopes

SAM SACHDEVA
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2012
Lucy Jones and her son, Jack, 11 months
JOSEPH JOHNSON/Fairfax NZ

ESSENTIAL PURCHASES: Lucy Jones and her son, Jack, 11 months, enjoy some Christmas shopping at The Palms Shopping Centre in Shirley.

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Canterbury businesses are looking forward to some Christmas cheer as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing.

The region's retailers are reporting a solid start to December sales, with hopes that the much-discussed rebuild-fuelled boom is starting to take hold.

Last year's December 23 aftershocks jolted Canterbury's Christmas trade, with December sales down 0.9 per cent on the same month in 2010, compared with a nationwide increase of 3.4 per cent.

Re:Start director Paul Lonsdale said 2012 Christmas sales at the container mall were up about 20 per cent on last year, with "outstanding" weather and first-time visitors helping to boost figures.

He said the mall's retailers were settling into a "new normal" after the city's quakes and did not want to rely too much on their Christmas sales.

"It's always nice to get a bit of a boon, but you have to remember that people have got a lot of strain on family budgets around Christmas time, so we've got to work hard for our customers," he said.

Representatives from Westfield Riccarton and The Palms said both shopping centres had noticed a strong start to the holiday shopping season.

Westfield New Zealand general manager Linda Trainer said retailers had been reporting "good Christmas trade" at the mall.

The Palms manager Simon Carter said the mall had already noticed a boost in sales figures compared with last Christmas as shoppers settled back into their usual holiday routines.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend believed Cantabrians would "celebrate Christmas in style", with the economic benefits of the rebuild starting to become apparent.

"I think people have been running on empty tanks a bit, but the festive season will create some new energy."

He said retailers had already been reporting "steady" figures, with sales likely to ramp up as Christmas Day approached.

"As has become the norm, everyone leaves everything to the last minute, so I expect we'll see quite a boost," he said.

Lucy Jones, who was shopping at The Palms yesterday with 11-month-old son Jack, said shoppers appeared to be in "a better headspace" compared with last Christmas.

"I think people are feeling a lot more positive this year with everything that's going on in town."

She said good weather and lack of seismic activity had contributed to the "good vibes" around the city.

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- The Press

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