Extra staff help Christmas tills to jingle

Last updated 05:00 22/12/2012
riccarton mall

SEASONAL WORKERS: Extra help is drafted in around Christmas time to help with the expected rush.

riccarton mall
HUSTLE BUSTLE: Malls can be a one-stop shop but you have to battle the crowds for the convenience.

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With only three days left for Christmas shopping, The Press takes a look at how those behind the scenes cope with the annual scramble for festive gifts.

Earthquakes have plagued Christchurch's biggest shopping period over the past two years but this year retailers at some of the city's busiest shopping malls are hopeful they can make it through the Christmas rush shake-free.

At The Palms shopping centre in Shirley, Beango Cafe manager Shawn Shi said Christmas shopping at the mall usually began gearing up after Show Day in November.

Mall management has hired more cleaners and car park attendants to keep things running smoothly, and Shi has hired three extra staff himself to help the cafe make the 300-odd cups of coffee sold every day. Shi said the Christmas lead-up was nothing compared with the biggest trading day of the year though - Boxing Day.

"We're expecting Boxing Day will be dramatically mad," he said.

Life Pharmacy business manager Malinda Ouk said she did not want to think about how busy Christmas Eve and Boxing Day would get just yet. "It's chaos."

However, the atmosphere in the mall so far had been "positive and buzzy", she said. "Christmas always does that but I think there's just a bit more this year. "

But not all retailers were feeling the Christmas rush.

Strandbags sales assistant Elijah Holtslag said the bag and luggage store had been "really quiet to be honest".

"I think since the earthquakes people haven't been spending much. A lot of people are coming in and saying they're just not doing Christmas this year."

Papanui's Northlands shopping centre boosted its staff numbers "substantially" to help with the pre-Christmas rush, centre manager Brian Bell said.

"For many, many retailers, a good portion of their income is derived over this Christmas period. They're obviously very busy." The extra visitors put pressure on the centre's parking, but staff were able to park at nearby Papanui High School. "There's a lot that's lifting people's spirits, people are looking forward to Christmas, we're getting a run of good weather, people are spending," Bell said. "You know last year was disrupted [by aftershocks] so hopefully that doesn't happen again."

Riccarton mall has employed 26 extra customer services staff, parking crew and gift wrappers during the festive madness, as well as additional cleaning staff.

Gift wrapper Isabel Robertson had wrapped "hundreds" of presents for Christmas shoppers each day since December 6.

"We get a lot of men coming who can't wrap presents themselves . . . [they are] very pleased to see us here." She was still waiting for the real rush to begin - the last few days before Christmas.

"Most people are pretty good but every now and then you get an angry customer, who is very particular about what they want . . . or because we can only wrap three presents at a time, they get annoyed we can't wrap their whole trolley."

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Smiggle Riccarton store manager Jennifer Fearn said customers coming into the store now were "starting to get a little bit stressed".

"The ones now have left it a bit late." Working at Christmas time was exhausting but the store hired extra staff to help out, she said. "You're constantly go, go, go."

- The Press

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