12 DECEMBER 2001

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Shop owners jittery over window shopping trends

By Ray Abdilla

As Christmas approaches, shop owners are waiting on tenterhooks to see whether the Maltese public are simply window shopping at present with a view to getting their wallets out or plan to curb their spending this year in line with the indications that there is an economic slowdown.
Many reasons are being cited as possible factors that could affect consumer spending this Christmas – uncertainty over the economic situation, less disposable income, a reduction in profits and the opening of more shops on a widespread scale.
Although many shop owners are aware that consumers often leave it until mid-December to begin shopping, they are still concerned that patterns could be different this year.
Some businessmen had also hoped people might begin shopping earlier and have more cash available having cancelled trips abroad over flying fears following the terrorist attacks.
Shop owners are already feeling jittery having felt the impact of a decrease in incoming tourism.
A drop in numbers has led to less money being spent in shops, bars and restaurants. Clothes shops are also feeling the pinch, with some even choosing to close earlier than required.
Although white goods do not tend to move any faster at Christmas, one supplier told the Malta Financial and Business Times that microwaves often shift well around Christmas, although it’s difficult to make comparisons.
Suppliers of jewellery and novelty gifts complained that people haven’t got much money to spend and are buying what is absolutely necessary, or simply looking.
"It is always like this during this time of the year," Tonio Zampa of Zampa jewellers in Zachary Street told The Malta Financial and Business Times. "People are coming to see what we have got on offer then they will decide. Normally they come back to buy after the feasts."
"Let’s just hope they do this time," said another businessman.
But it seems that parents are, at least, not taking any chances with children’s presents this year and have stocked up early. Toyshops are reporting a booming business and parents are even booking Father Christmas home visits!
Shops such as The Model Shop, Eduline, Clamus and The New pages in Mosta all reported a good trade.
Paul Grech, of The New Pages, told The Malta Financial and Business Times that he had ordered more toys at the end of November because most of the stock had already sold.
"It looks like people in Mosta, at least from this area, wanted to buy their kids’ Christmas presents very early this year," he said. "Most of them have left them in my shop for Father Christmas to deliver, or perhaps so they won’t be discovered!"

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