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Figures confirm retailers’ bleak December

The 2012 holiday season didn’t bring any joy to retailers in Bermuda with overall retail sales falling one percent in December. Taking inflation into account, retail sales in December 2012 actually fell 3.7 percent. According to the Retail Sales Index released by the Department of Statistics, while building materials took the biggest hit, declining 33.5 percent, apparel retailers reported a 7.5 percent decline in sales during December.

Residents did, however, spend more of their money abroad, declaring 21.3 percent or $1.3 million more in overseas purchases — clothing, footwear and consumer electronic goods — than the $6.1 million recorded for December 2011. According to the report, this outcome may be partly due to the new HM Customs Green/Red channel system for declaring goods at the airport introduced in November 2012

The decline in local retail sales was attributed to consumers focusing more on the December political election, combined with the absence of in-store sales incentives when compared to December 2011. Retailers starkly felt the slowdown in sales during the week leading up to the December 17 election and even though the streets and stores of Hamilton were mobbed in the few days prior to Christmas, there weren’t enough days to offset the dip.

“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 Paula Clarke, chairman of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce’s retail division in a late December interview with

The Royal Gazette.

The contraction in the building materials sector (down 33.5 percent) was attributed to the near completion of major commercial construction projects such as the redevelopment of the King Edward Memorial Hospital, and a decrease in sales related to residential construction.

Alternatively, motor vehicles — a sector that has seen several successive declining sales receipts — recorded a significant jump in car sales in December — up 37.9 percent, selling 17 more cars than the same period in 2011.

Food sales increased 5.9 percent during the month as did liquor store sales, which recorded a 0.1 percent rise.

Sales receipts for gas stations during December 2012 increased 2.5 percent, which was attributed to the increased volume of sales and a 4.3 percent rise in the price of fuel.

Retail sales dropped in December.

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Published February 13, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated February 12, 2013 at 7:12 pm)

Figures confirm retailers’ bleak December

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