Pepper Tree Kitchen owner Helen Nott (right) and shop assistant Rebecca Osborne with some of the gourmet Christmas hampers proving very popular with shoppers in the Magellan Street store.
Pepper Tree Kitchen owner Helen Nott (right) and shop assistant Rebecca Osborne with some of the gourmet Christmas hampers proving very popular with shoppers in the Magellan Street store. David Nielsen

Merry times for retailers

IT IS going to be a very Merry Christmas, with stockings overflowing with gifts, if the experience of the region’sretailers is anything to go by.

Despite a warning to consumers from Fair Trading Minister Virginia Judge to avoid taking on additional debt in the last days before Christmas, the public is making this a truly festive season for many shop owners.

The NSW branch of theNational Retail Association predicted about a five per cent growth on Christmas sales this year, compared with 2008.

This is despite retailers enjoying a boom Christmas last year due to the Federal Government’s stimulus package and continued talk of the global financial crisis.

Children can be especially hopeful. Carmel Horner, who owns Toy Kingdom in Lismore with husband Carey, said the season had got off to a ‘great start’ in the first week of December, with sales double those of last year.

“We were expecting it to be a good year, but this blew us away,” she said. “And there’s a good buzz around the shops.”

Ms Horner said she thought ‘people were feeling more up beat about the economy’.

Helen Nott, of the Pepper Tree Kitchen in Magellan Street, said while sales had been on a par with last year she expected next week to be bigger.

Shoppers are snapping up her gourmet gift baskets and corporate boxes – packed with own-label dipping oils, jams and marinades, as well as nuts and chocolates – as well as plum puddings and Christmas cakes.

Lismore Chandlers also reported a good season, though the unusual heat may play as big a part in the seasonal generosity, with air-conditioning systems and side-by-side fridges walking out the door.

Bar fridges were another big sale item, said ownerMichael Haddin.

Electrical goods were also proving popular in Casino, where Oaten RetraVision’s Michael Oaten said he thought it was going to be the store’s best Christmas ever. Camcorders and iPods were big gift items, with TVs and air-cons also in big demand.

Mr Oaten said electrical items had never been cheaper and customer offers, including free TVs, PlayStations and Wii consoles, were bigger and better than ever.

But it seems shoppers may have been leaving their purchases until late in the day.

Margie George, co-owner of Casino homewares and soft furnishings shop Arum, said sales had been ‘mediocre’ until last week, when things suddenly picked up.

Craig Gibson, owner of Sunrise Cycles in Ballina and Byron Bay, said there had been a good response so far, but that people were shopping ‘later and later’, and he expected next week to be very busy.



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