Frantic shopping forecast

Dunedin residents should brace for a frantic week ahead as an Otago Chamber of Commerce survey shows a significant number of people are yet to start their Christmas shopping.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the informal survey indicated only 12% of those surveyed had completed their Christmas shopping, while 10% had still to start, and the remainder still had shopping to do.

''I expect heavy trading on Saturday, Sunday and Monday,'' Mr Christie said.

''A lot of people will take Monday off work. I have no doubt that that is why a lot of people haven't started their shopping yet.

''The city is only going to get more hectic.

''As things get busier, people have to realise that they are not going to be able to get as much personal attention from shop assistants, and vehicle and pedestrian traffic is going to be very busy.

''People will need to be patient,'' he said.

The survey also showed 40% of those surveyed intended to spend less on Christmas than last year, 50% said they would spend the same, and only 5% would spend more.

''The remainder won't spend anything,'' he said.

Paymark eftpos retail spending figures showed Otago consumers spent $15.5 million at the weekend (December 15-16) - up 1% on the same weekend last year (December 17-18).

Nationwide figures for the same weekends showed New Zealand consumers spent $304 million this year, and $300.7 million last year - a 1.1% increase.

Paymark sales and marketing head Paul Whiston said the data showed Otago was moving broadly in track with growth areas of New Zealand, and Otago was in the top half of regions in terms of spending growth.

Meridian mall manager Michael Porter said Dunedin's largest mall was not as busy as this time last year, but he expected this Saturday to be the busiest retail day of the year.

''We're expecting more than 120,000 people through the doors, which isn't bad for a town with a population of about 118,000.''

He said the past weekend had attracted about 50,000 shoppers - up from the usual 37,000 people who passed through the mall on weekends throughout the year.

He said the hot weather last Sunday might have contributed to the ''flat'' day, with consumers preferring to be out in the sun.

However, Mitre 10 Mega marketing and merchandising manager Steven Loughrey credited the warm weather with a rise in retail sales during the weekend.

''We definitely had a big uplift. It was almost like people were inspired by the sun to do some DIY work around the house.''

Mr Loughrey said last year people were ''a bit cashstrapped'', but this year consumers appeared to be spending more on large-ticket items such as new kitchens and decks.

R&R Sport store manager Bryn Barnett said the ''traditional Christmas climb'' had begun and he had noticed the store was 20% busier than this time last week.

Brent Weatherall Jeweller Ltd owner Brent Weatherall said the past weekend had been very busy, but the best was yet to come.

''It hasn't been ridiculously busy yet - that will come this weekend. It will be absolutely berserk,'' he said.

''The rush gets closer to Christmas every year, and this year is no exception.

''Sales have been very strong. They are considerably ahead of last year. They are up 15% to 20% to date on last year.''

Arthur Barnett general manager Sue Smaill said there was a great Christmas ''buzz'' about the central city.

''There's certainly a lot more people around than last year.

''If consumers are wise, they will have all their shopping done by Thursday, Friday or Saturday,'' she said.

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