‘No more trees to sell’: Christmas shoppers out in force, retailers say


Christmas trees, clothing, toys and garden supplies – people are spending up, while stocks start to dwindle.

Christmas tree with gold decoration in shopping mall.Christmas clearance sales at the shopping mall.

Photo: 123RF

Retailers say Christmas shoppers are out in force with many opting to get their festivities sorted unusually early.

At Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt on Sunday tinsel dripped from shopfronts, children queued for a picture with Santa, pop-carols played and shoppers were there in the thousands.

An employee at the Christmas Heirloom Shop said the store had been frantic and was already down to its last items including running out of plastic Christmas trees.

“The warehouses have emptied out, we have no more trees to sell.”

She put that down to both supply issues and people preparing for Christmas Day much earlier than usual.

“They just want to celebrate something; to break free.”

A Christmas shopper wanted to downsize her tree this year but missed out.

“They have completely sold out, The Warehouse, Farmers, K-Mart – completely gone. Other items as well.”

Despite Covid-19, her Christmas will be much the same.

“I’ve been lucky enough not to be affected by Covid. I work for government and have been quite secure in employment. I haven’t curbed my spending which is probably not that good,” she said.

Judith has a trolley filled with presents and sweet treats for her family and friends and a load of wrapping paper.

But this Christmas is not what she had hoped it would be because her only granddaughter and two of her sons are in Brisbane.

Instead, she will spend a low-key Christmas with her son and daughter here. But a quieter Christmas does not mean a cheaper one.

“I’ve spent a lot more sending gifts to Australia, and I’m not sure if they will get there in time.”

A mother and daughter duo were just dashing into Queensgate to buy a gift but really they prefer to shop online.

“I think that the Covid thing has opened that up to me,” the mother said.

They too had seen a lot of empty shelves in the shops.

Retail NZ chief executive Greg Harford said businesses were having an unexpected boom.

Its sale index through November shows spending is up 26 percent on the same period last year.

“There’s some good news there for the retail sector but there are still some businesses that are really suffering and not doing well at all.”

Those struggling businesses tend to be tourism-related, or are shops not offering an online option.

Supply problems are putting pressure on retailers, he said.

“Retailers don’t necessarily have as much product to sell and they can’t meet customer demand when they would usually do so.

“The bigger challenge is that it is starting to stretch cash-flow in some cases because it means businesses are having to order products well ahead of time and pay for it then.”

Paul Brislen from Paymark – which owns payment services like EFTPOS – said retailers had bounced back after a tough lockdown period earlier this year.

December is traditionally the month when a lot of retailers make their profit for the year and now mega promotion days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are kickstarting sales earlier, he said.

“Certainly we are seeing retail sales almost back to normal standards. So that terrible dip retailers saw earlier in the year has been more or less wiped out since then.”

Brislen predicts that growth in spending will last right up until Christmas Eve.

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