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Retail sector gears up for the Christmas holidays



It's just October but the Christmas bells are already ringing, with Christmas cards and decorations already finding their way into stores across the globe.

At big box retailer The Warehouse, the first advent calendars began to appear in late September, along with decorations, trees, cards, wrapping paper and confectionery.

"Over the years Kiwis have indicated they want to start planning and budgeting for Christmas earlier, so in line with this we want to offer customers the opportunity to start purchasing their Christmas essentials in advance," said spokeswoman Julia Morton.

"However, the bulk of our Christmas offer isn't in stores until after Labour Weekend."

According to research, people who put up their Christmas decorations early and start listening to the holiday jingles in November, or even October, are healthier and happier than those that don’t. “I agree. It just puts you in a good mood. Seriously,” said one person.

“Just even talking about it makes me happy,” another person said.

Experts note that people who enjoy that “Christmas creep” and start decorating their rooftops with battery operated Christmas lights early typically also have a psychological makeup that allows them to lead more fulfilled lives.

So, as the Christmas fever continues to rise, Emma Smith, manager of The Palms mall in Christchurch, NZ notesthat many shops are well into the Christmas spirit and likewise shoppers.

"They like to come and browse for a bit and get ideas for gifts,” she said. "Since daylight saving, that's really when shoppers and retailers start getting excited."

This year the Palms is one of the AMP Capital Shopping Centres, which has a focus on how Christmas affects the community—in particular the lonely, the less fortunate, and those with sensory issues. For several years, The Palms has been running "Sensory Santa" and "Sensory Movie" sessions for autistic children.

Smith note thatSensory Santa allow kids who might otherwise be overwhelmed, to meet Santa before the centre opens—with the sessions always booked out.

"It's quite moving to have a family that's never been able to have a family photo with Santa before it's been too hard," she said.

For every retailer, Christmas season is a make or break time and the key period for them to turn a profit.

Therefore, everyone implores different strategies to maximize profits, notes Chris Wilkinson of retail consultancy First Retail Group.

"For some, there are subtle indicators coming through like displays, while others are launching into 'full Christmas mode' with decorations and seasonal merchandise up already," he said.

Retailers begin planning Christmas in January, after they assess the performance of the last season and anticipate for the next.

"The big brands have dedicated teams, signifying how important this is to their overall year," said Wilkinson.

Additionally, the measure to which retailers rely on Christmas is witnessed by the amount of gift-specific stock which have already taken the place of core stock on shelves.

One company where Christmas is an all-year round affair is the Christmas Heirloom Company, which has a retail chain selling Christmas decorations and runs a decoration service for malls and businesses. The company noted that“Christmas tree installations don't generally go up until November, but its stores are open all year.”

Most shoppers don't start buying decorations until after Labour weekend, although "you'll always get the Christmas lovers who start decorating early," said Shelley Bishop from the company's head office.

According to Greg Harford, public relations manager for Retail NZ, Christmas is the perfect time for those interested in boosting their bank balances or even starting out a career in retail.

"There are plenty of people in the industry who started off in holiday jobs and have built themselves strong careers in the retail sector," he said in a report.

While most retail workers need an outgoing personality, good comprehension ability and literacy skills, Harford says people do not always realise there are many different roles available within the sector.

“Within the retail sector, there's a range of jobs covering everything from customer service, to marketing, logistics, IT, ecommerce and leadership,” he added.

Additionally, due to the numerous activities that take place before and during Christmas, much of the retail rush also extends into the first three weeks of December.