Holiday trade ‘slowest in 30 years’

RETAILERS in Queanbeyan are experiencing one of the slowest Christmas periods in years, according to several local business owners.

Steve Stavreas, of Dimitri’s Jewellers, said the usually busy Christmas period was failing to meet expectations.

“It is probably the quietest lead up to Christmas in 30 years,” he said.

Mr Stavreas said his store was not alone in failing to see a large increase in consumer spending.

Owner of Queanbeyan Gifts and Gadgets, Barry Taylor, agreed the Christmas period had been quiet this year in Queanbeyan.

“I had no expectations this Christmas period after such a shocking year financially. We’re down on where we were two years ago,” he said.

Christmas was supposed to bring strong relief to those struggling in the retail sector.

The Deloitte Access Economics Quarterly Retail Forecast predicted a 5 per cent year-on-year retail sales growth in the ACT.

It was hoped the forecast growth would spill into the Queanbeyan area.

However, Mr Stavreas said the level of growth forecast by Deloitte Access Economics was inaccurate and both Canberra and Queanbeyan will fail to see that level of increased revenue.

“We have three stores, two in Canberra and one in Queanbeyan and those (Deloitte) figures are way off the mark,” he said.

Mr Taylor also questioned the accuracy of the forecast.

“I’d like to know who they’re (Deloitte) projecting that trade with. I’ve noticed that some people have moved their Boxing Day sales forward so that should tell you something,” he said.

Mr Stavreas said the reasons for shoppers not spending their money were still unclear but there is a general lack of confidence amongst consumers.

Both Mr Stavreas and Mr Taylor cited potential Commonwealth public service job cuts as a reason for the lack of consumer confidence.

Online shopping is also expected to impact Christmas sales this year and Mr Taylor said the threat from online shopping is real.

He urged Queanbeyan residents to spend their Christmas budget locally.

“The Queanbeyan community has to spend money in Queanbeyan.

People might not understand that if a job goes here, that might affect three, four, or five other people,” he said.

The impacts of retailers not seeing an increased level of spending may affect more than just the bottom line.

Mr Taylor said that if trade didn’t increase, it may cost local jobs.

“I think it has to (affect employment). I know people around here who have lost their jobs. We’d normally employ people for the Christmas period and we haven’t done that. We’ve cut hours and haven’t put on Christmas casuals,” he said.

The Christmas period hasn’t been doom and gloom for all retailers, however.

Queanbeyan Business Council member and Telstra store owner Neil Kennedy has seen an increase in profits of nearly ten per cent from this time last year.

Mr Kennedy said it could be partly due to his store not having to face some of the same challenges as other retail outlets, such as the threat from online shopping.

This is because mobile phone owners need to connect to Australian phone networks, which means they’re more likely to purchase phones in store.

Local retailers have said the 2012 Christmas season trade has been the slowest in three decades.

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