LONDON Dec 27 Shoppers in euro zone nations
battered by years of recession and crisis are on the hunt for
bargains, delaying their purchases until the last minute, or
simply not buying at all as post-Christmas sales get underway.
Britain and Sweden appeared to buck the trend, however, with
the number of people visiting shops on Wednesday, the day when
clearance sales traditionally start, well up on last year and
sales volumes high.
In southern Europe, where the economic crisis has hit
hardest, sales were down, in some cases quite substantially,
according to an informal Reuters survey.
In Greece, whose economy has been shrinking for five years,
retail turnover in December is expected to have fallen by about
one fifth compared to a year ago, according to Vassilis
Korkidis, chairman of the country's retail trade association.
"Unfortunately, yet another year has been marked by poor
Christmas sales. I hope that 2013 will put an end to the
economic war we have been fighting for five straight years now,"
Korkidis told a Greek television station.
Athens' main shopping streets were buzzing with people
before Christmas. But many shopkeepers complained that families
merely came for a walk to enjoy the warm, sunny weather.
Spain's biggest department store, El Corte Ingles, has not
officially started its winter sales, but is already offering
discounts on selected items such as flat-screen televisions.
Shopkeepers were expected to offer big reductions when
clearance sales officially start next month in an attempt to
generate some interest from customers after two straight years
of falling retail sales.
"The Christmas campaign didn't take off the way it was
expected to and we know sales are down compared to 2011 though
we don't have the figures yet," said Ainhoa Garcia, spokeswoman
for the Spanish Commerce Confederation.
For Italy, another victim of the euro zone crisis, this
Christmas will go down as "the worst in the last 10 years",
according to the Codacons consumer organisation, with spending
down by as much as 20 percent compared with a year ago.
Italian families were buying fewer and cheaper presents and
even recycling last year's Christmas decorations.
An exception to the downturn was spending on food, which
rose 5 percent as Italians remained reluctant to give up on
elaborate Christmas meals.
In France, a special promotion by supermarket group
Intermarche resulted in the sale of 45,000 tins of caviar, three
times more than last year.
But with a month of winter sales beginning on Jan. 9, the
outlook is less rosy. Only 48 percent of shoppers are planning
to participate, according to a poll by market research firm
In relatively prosperous Germany, the outlook was better.
Shoppers had waited until the last minute before making their
purchases, but a sharp pickup in the week before Christmas was
expected to continue into the New Year, the German retail
"More and more often, Christmas presents are being bought
only just before Christmas," said Stefan Genth, head of the HDE
retail association, which represents 100,000 members.
Revenues from Christmas shopping are expected to amount to
about 80.4 billion euros, an increase of 1.5 percent from the
year-earlier period, HDE said.
"We expect sales momentum to continue between Christmas and
New Year," HDE spokesman Stefan Hertel said.
Post-Christmas clearance sales in Britain appeared to get
off to a strong start, as cash-strapped shoppers rushed to grab
Initial reports indicated footfall had risen over 20 percent
across the country on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas and
the traditional start for clearance sales.
More retailers than ever before had begun sales on Boxing
Day to maximise the time they were open for shoppers, said a
spokesman for the British Retail Consortium.
"Customers are extremely savvy, even more so in these
difficult conditions," he said.
Leading British department store chains like Marks & Spencer
, Debenhams and John Lewis began
clearance sales online on Christmas Eve.
John Lewis said online sales in the first hour were up 70
percent on 2011, while sales on Christmas Day rose 40 percent.
Gisela Bruem-Cedergren, sales chief at department store
Ahlens City in Stockholm, said turnover and number of visitors
on the first day of post-Christmas sales hit record highs.
"We hit a record, the day's total turnover was our best ever
for a Boxing day," she said in the Swedish capital.
"When we opened, customers ran straight to the perfume
department near the entrance, grabbing bottles at random so
they flew all over the place," she said. "We were a bit