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Election hit holiday sales, say retailers

The general election fervour hurt retailers this Christmas, distracting consumers from holiday shopping. Retailers say that the outlook for month of December is not looking promising as they experienced very slow sales during the week leading up to the December 17 election. “December was very disappointing but somewhat expected when you have an election in a December — it’s always very tough,” said Paula Clarke, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s retail division. “People were very distracted with the events surrounding the election process.” Some stores make as much as 40 percent of their annual sales during the crucial holiday shopping period. Restaurants also took a hit from the election. “I think the holiday season went as best as could be hoped for although the election really put a crimp that second week of December leading up to the election,” said Philip Barnett, the Chamber’s restaurant division co-chair and president of the Island Restaurant Group. “It really hurt things.” Though he said that casual dining was the casualty where fine dining, surprisingly fared well. “It is interesting that fine dining is definitely up,” said Mr Barnett, whose group of restaurants include Barracuda Grill, Victoria Grill, Pickled Onion and Hog Penny. “Though companies weren’t paying the tab, it was individuals and groups — families, friends and colleagues coming together.” The Island’s dismal December sales numbers follow the high of November when the success of Black Friday was a boon for retailers. “I think overall November was a pretty good month, there was a lot of activity around Black Friday events which was very well received by customers,” said Ms Clarke. “We were very happy about that and it created a lot of excitement.” She added that retailers knew what was in store for them this month and worked hard to create “different activity to try to incentivise people to come in and shop in the stores”. “All throughout December, all businesses were very promotionally based but yet it wasn’t enough to have a better result,” she said. Even though the streets and stores of Hamilton were mobbed last week in the lead up to Christmas, the volume didn’t offset the slow sales during the week heading into the election. “The worst week for everyone was the week leading up to the election but after that there weren’t really enough days to make up the difference and that would be pretty much across the board for most businesses,” said Ms Clarke. Though the holiday season might have been slow for retailers, shoppers are now finding deeply discounted bargains at post-Christmas sales. Gibbons Company is offering 30 to 75 percent off in most departments, including huge discounts for Nautica luggage. Across the street at shoe store Trends, on Reid Street, is also holding their a sale on name brand items. AS Cooper is offering up to 75 percent sale in selected departments in all stores until December 31, Phoenix is featuring 50 percent off Christmas items at all of their pharmacies and Brown & Co is offering deep discounts on their Christmas supply plus 40-50 percent off select designer bags and sunglasses. Some stores are holding storewide sales, including Paget clothier SizeWise and Seasons, which are offering 30-60 percent off and Gorham’s, holding a ten percent off sale until December 29. “After-Christmas sales are a great time to find bargains for consumers,” said Ms Clarke, who is also the CEO of Gibbons Company. “People can take advantage of really good deals.” She added that most stores will likely extend their sales until the inventory runs out. “After-Christmas sales are always on a first-come, first-serve basis because they are very deep discounts and the best selection is the earliest selection,” she said.

Election distraction: Bermuda residents were distracted from their holiday shopping by the December 17 election, say retailers.