Retailers see mixed results from pre-holiday sales
Retailers had mixed feelings about sales in the run-up to Christmas with some seeing an upturn in takings and others continuing to struggle in the current tough economic climate.
Kristi Grayston, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce's retail division, said that around December 23 and 24 a lot of businesses were starting to get worried about the lack of trade.
But George Grundmuller, president and CEO of the Phoenix Stores Ltd., said that his company was up in November and even for December and predicts that Bermuda's retail sector will improve in about six months in line with US retailers.
“We actually had a good November,” he told
The Royal Gazette. “We were up in November over last year and were even in December.
“In fact, it looked good in November right up to the last week until the bad weather came and affected some of the buying.”
Among the most successful parts of his business were P-Tech's consumer electronics and the Hallmark gifts and cards, while others were as expected.
Mr Grundmuller said that he was just pleased to be at the same level as last year given the increasing number of people leaving the Island.
He said that most retailers he had spoken to had told him they were affected by the adverse weather with the exception of winter clothing and heater suppliers. And he is upbeat about the future despite a tough few months ahead.
“I think it is always better to be optimistic and positive,” he said. “I like to think of the glass being half full rather than half empty and there are some encouraging signs including an increase in the number of cruise ships next year which should help business and the fact that it seems by all accounts in the US they had a better Christmas and typically we see a delay of six months for that to happen in Bermuda, so I think in 2011 things will improve.”
Ms Grayston said that her sales were down 10 percent and the consensus was that other retailers were having a hard time of it too.
“Certainly by the 23rd and 24th a lot of people were nervous,” she said. “Town was really quite quiet this year and I don't know if it was because of the cold weather.”
Richard Hartley, managing director of Burrows Lightbourn, which launched its new WineOnline.bm website offering an online sales and delivery service earlier this year, said that trade was boosted by a flurry of last-minute shoppers.
“Business picked up quite a bit in the last few days before Christmas and we got some very nice orders,” he said.
“The general feeling is that we did about as well as last year and it tends to be a last-minute rush as well, so it is often a little early to know how we did.”
Mr Hartley also cited a reduction in the amount of residents due to the economic downturn, reflected in the 10.8 percent fall in retail sales volume during October, as one of the main reasons behind a decline in the industry as a whole.
He said that his company's wine business had held up well, while its beer trade had been hit by a reduction in the number of expatriates on the Island, a drop-off in visitor arrivals and an ageing population.