Festive sales boosted by discounts
Christmas brought some cheer to the struggling retail sector, store chiefs said yesterday.
But festive season sales may have come at the cost of deep discounts to get customers through the doors.
Brown & Co general manager Nicole Warren said: “Spending was much the same as last year, but spread differently.
“It’s about where people were spending their money locally and how they were spending and there’s a bit more relaxation on the wallet to some degree.
“There is some more confidence in spending.”
She added, however, that discounts, heralded by the “Black Friday” sales in November, had boosted traffic at the tills.
“Customers were looking for a lot of sales — in some areas, retailers were really promoting a lot of mark down promotions to entice people to enter the stores and shops,” she said.
“In December, there were still a lot of mark downs going on, which tends to stretch the customer dollars, but it does create some excitement in the retail community.
“It does encourage people to shop on the Island and makes us competitive with our competitors on the eastern seaboard.”
But she added: “We did it to some degree, but not for the entirety of our season. We don’t believe it’s healthy behaviour to keep a business running.”
Ms Warren said that Brown & Co’s Hallmark card and gift shop was “very strong and sets the momentum for the season”, while strong offerings from Island authors had boosted sales at the firm’s bookstore.
Ms Warren said: “We’re happy with the way the season ended — it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great although we are satisfied with the ending.”
She said that a more optimistic approach signalled better days ahead for stores.
“On the larger scale, it will come in the months ahead of us. I do think people are feeling generally a bit more confident about the economy and the America’s Cup does have a role to play in that.
“The America’s Cup will set the stage for things to come.”
She was backed by Kristi Grayston, the president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and owner of gift shop Pulp & Circumstance.
Ms Grayston said: “We are all feeling a little more optimistic because of the America’s Cup and, quite frankly, we’re all thinking we won’t be laying anyone off. We will have to see how the next five or six months play out.
“It’s been a tough year for retail. We’ve heard a few people say they’re up on previous years, but I find that a bit of a stretch — we’re certainly not.
“Retail has been so downtrodden for so many years, it’s not been an unexpectedly tough year, but it’s been tough.”
Ms Grayston also agreed that spending patterns had changed, with festive shoppers being more selective.
She said: “People have frugal fatigue so they’re spending on some people, but not on others. We’re not spending the way we used to.
“Discounting is a necessary evil — none of us like it. We all have to do it because we don’t want to carry stock to the next year and the next season.
“Most retailers discounted in December to get rid of holiday products. Some introduced it earlier than others and that was an issue for a lot of retailers.
“At the end of the day, we’re all playing the best game we can and dealing with the same issues.”
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