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One out of the box for our retailers

Although Boxing Day spending was down slightly nationwide compared to last year, businesses in Wairarapa went against the trend and enjoyed a buying bump that was second only to Otago.

A total of $98.3 million was spent on ‘core retail’ [excluding hospitality] around New Zealand on December 26, with Wairarapa racking up $800,000, according to data from electronic payment network Worldline NZ.

That meant purchases for the country as a whole were 0.6 per cent lower than on Boxing Day 2022, whereas locally there was an 8.5 per cent increase.

Otago benefited from the biggest increase [9.4 per cent], while Wellington had the biggest drop – 10.8 per cent behind last year’s tally, even though the capital has the third highest maximum value transactions behind Auckland and Canterbury.

The improvement over last year’s Boxing Day patronage will have been a relief for Wairarapa retailers, given Worldline NZ data indicates the region’s retailers suffered a 14.2 per cent sales slump on Black Friday [November 24-25] this year, compared to 2022 figures.

That said, spending in Wairarapa then rallied in the lead-up to Christmas [December 1-21] and showed a 3.5 per cent improvement on the same time last year.

Several local owner-operators of nationwide franchises contacted by the Times-Age declined to comment on the record due to corporate policy dictating that only head office can make media comment, but as one noted, “You look at the national news and it’s all doom and gloom, but from where I’m sitting, Wairarapa is looking pretty good.”

That sentiment was echoed by Shoe Clinic’s Matt Spooner, who is looking forward to ending the year on a record annual sales high.

Spooner noted that the first half of December was “relatively pedestrian” in terms of purchases compared to earlier years, but things picked up in the last week before Christmas when the urge to splurge was “as big as ever”.

“All up, this month is looking like being neck and neck with this time last year,” he said.

Le Gra Vineyard’s Nicky Geary said things are quieter now than they usually are at this time of year, with a marked absence of out-of-towners lining up at the cellar door, but “we were absolutely flat out in the lead-up to Christmas, thanks to fantastic local support”, and a Boxing Day movie night – the first of three planned for the summer – was a sellout.

The two weeks before Christmas were “good” for clothing store Bullick Blackmore, Richard McLeod said, while Boxing Day business was “on par or slightly up on last year”.

“All up, though, the year was a bit down on 2022,” McLeod said, something he attributes to people being much more cautious with their spending in the face of the cost of living rises that were a feature for much of the year.

‘You’ve also got to take into account the fact we’re coming off the covid-19 period when there was a big surge in retail sales because people weren’t travelling offshore and so had more to spend than usual.

“We’re starting to get back to a bit of normality.”

Meanwhile, the last six months of 2023 have been a cracker for Tessa Gillett’s Scented gift shop – something she largely puts down to location, location, location.

In July, Gillett moved the store to its new home across from the town hall, just in time for Greytown’s Festival of Christmas, and she’s doubled her sales – “or maybe more” – since the move, thanks to “better visibility and much more foot traffic”.

Although, like Geary, she’s noted a fall in the number of Wellingtonians venturing over the hill, especially if the weather’s looking iffy, online sales have been “ticking over nicely”.

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