10 – 18 January 2001

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Good reports on January sales, despite greater competition

By Nadine Brincat

More shops may be opening, including new complexes, such as Bay Street and the Embassy, but many retailers still seem to be satisfied with business over the Christmas period and the beginning of the January sales.
Joe Bonello, who owns the boutique ‘Touch of Class' and is a member of the Republic Street Business Community Association (RSBCA), said he believes more people than ever before are eagerly awaiting the January sales.
He puts this down to more demanding consumer patterns and the fact that retailers are responding accordingly.
"Before, the sales period used to begin around 15 January, when shop owners admittedly used to bring out all kinds of old stock," he explained. "Now, shop owners have genuine sales, with deductions of 25 or 50 per cent. The stock on sale is the same they sold the day before. Shops want to get rid of their stock, to buy new items and compete with rivals."
Asked whether the opening of new shopping complexes had affected business, Mr Bonello maintained that most lines had niche markets, which were not affected by the opening of other stores.
"Some businessmen open different outlets in competing shopping centres, across the island," he said. "In this way, they simply compete in their own lines. The issue of competition is more relevant to goods and services which have greater appeal to younger generations."
Mr Bonello also believes that over the past 20 years, patterns have led to consumers purchasing more goods while spending less.
"For example, women might spend less money on clothes but make more purchases," he said. "Brand names alone will not do the trick."
Victor Fenech Azzoppardi, RSBCA President, said that the sales seemed to be going well, but it was too early to anticipate the outcome yet.
He also had a word of caution for the mushrooming of new shopping outlets, warning that despite further shops and complexes opening throughout the island, the size of the cake had not increased.
Deborah Webster, marketing manager of Bay Street, said she was pleased with results at Christmas.
"Sales this Christmas have been over and above our expectations, and this trend has carried over into the sales season," she said.
When asked whether she was concerned that the market could end up saturated, Ms Webster said that the island generally suffered from a lack in customer service and quality standards in retailing.
"Fiercer competition is bringing with it a greater selection and choice for the local market," she said. "It is preferable to keep business within local walls, otherwise people go abroad and make purchases in London, Italy or Sicily, which could be made here, since we have the same quality of goods."
Julian Zammit, Managing Director of the Plaza shopping complex, said that the Christmas period had proved to be a good one for retailers there.
"Judging from what I see, things are going well here and we have not registered any complaints, despite the opening of two major complexes this year," he said.
Mr Zammit did, however, point out that sales are starting earlier each year, meaning that more stock had to be sold.
"Shops should try to maintain uniformity when it comes to opening the sales season," he said. "Abroad, there are laws dictating when sales should be held, but we do not have anything of the sort in Malta. Here the first shop to come out with sales sets a snowball effect for other shops."
When asked about the effects of competition, Mr Zammit said that different complexes appealed to different target markets, adding that the Plaza had maintained its regular pace and had retained its niche markets.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt