Retailers waiting to see

While the signs are good, shop owners are waiting for people to spend their 13th salaries before deciding how good a Christmas we are having.

Cypriot retailers are expecting a good year of Christmas shopping as they approach the busiest shopping period of the year. Sales have been mostly satisfying for shopkeepers so far, and much more is expected with people receiving their 13th salaries in the coming days.

Petros Marcou of the Cyprus Consumers’ Association said he was confident that this year’s Christmas period would be a successful one.

“Sales up to now have been as expected. In the next few days, when the necessary money becomes available, they should begin to pick up. Consumers have been more interested in window shopping for now so that they can decide what they want to purchase for Christmas,” he said.

On the issue of competition, Marcou said there was still room for improvement. “There have been improvements in competition levels in the last few years but certainly it is not as high as we would want.”

And while this time of year tempts customers with many offers, Marcou called for caution. “People must examine each offer carefully as there is plenty of clever advertising that intends to manipulate customers.”

Consumers Union and Quality of Life President Lucas Aristodemou also gave out a stern warning to customers to beware of the traps of the market during this period.

“It has been evident in the last two years that greed gets the better of shopkeepers during Christmas. However, this year it appears that the situation is much better, with good prices, stronger competition and professionalism,” he said.

Aristodemou said price levels were encouraging. “This year’s prices are very logical, not exaggerated. There are some big retailers which have a policy of making good offers and sales even before Christmas, something that is the way of the market today,” he said.

Aristodemou added that despite the need to buy things for Christmas, many consumers, especially in Limassol and Paphos, were prepared to wait for the January sales to splash out.

Operations Manager of Marks and Spencer, Kyriacos Artemiou, declared himself extremely pleased with business so far. “Sales for this year have gone very well for us, up to this point I can say better than any other year in fact. Regarding prices, our prices are 10 per cent lower than last year,” he stated, adding it was not the company’s policy to discount ahead of Christmas.

However, Stathis Christodoulou, owner of a jewellery shop in Nicosia did not share the same optimism. “Prices have gone up considerably this year for our raw materials such as precious metals; and this has a negative effect on our business during this time of year in relation to previous years,” he said.

This period is usually the busiest and most important for jewellers, and Christodoulou feels no need for special offers. “Christmas is a time of year when we have customers, there is no need to do anything additional in order to attract them,” he said.

Other shopkeepers also expressed caution yesterday. A Mavros toy shop representative said business had started to pick up at the weekends and was likely to pick up in the final days to Christmas. “It’s already started picking up although it’s still quiet during the week. I think it’s because people haven’t yet received their 13th salaries yet. When they get them next week they’ll start shopping more. It’s how it is every year,” she said.

One of mobile retailer Germanos’ Nicosia outlets said they were still waiting for business to pick up. Asked whether he thought the slump in sales was related to the fact that people had not yet received their 13th salaries, he said “definitely”.

With excellent weather predicted for the next few days leading up to Christmas, unusual for this time of year, shopkeepers are bracing themselves for what they hope to be their busiest Christmas yet.