‘Pretty empty’: Sleepy start to Boxing Day sales
When inner west residents Kelly Chu and Emily Wong, both 19, arrived at Pitt Street Mall for the Boxing Day sales at 8am, they were surprised by the lack of crowds.
“It’s been pretty empty,” Ms Wong said. ”On television, when we saw Boxing Day, there were people rushing into stores and fighting for stuff, but it hasn’t been like that at all.”
Against a backdrop of sluggish retail spending and small relief from the government’s $25 billion tax cut package, businesses were braced for softer sales. But Harvey Norman chief executive Katie Page said early signs were pointing to healthy trade.
“[My store managers] have been texting me since early this morning and it looks to me like it’s a pretty strong day,” she said.
Gerry Harvey, Harvey Norman’s founder and executive director, said small appliances were a popular choice for shoppers leading into Christmas, with the category up 15 per cent for some stores on last year.
“Whatever it is, a mixer, a juicer, a coffee machine, sales are a bit stronger than I thought it would be.”
But one item had been completely cleaned off shelves, Mr Harvey said, with the bushfire smoke affecting the country’s eastern seaboard spurring the sale of air purifiers.
“I don’t know if there’s any left in Australia. If there’s ever been a big year for air purifiers, I don’t remember it,” he said.
Myer faced a wave of disgruntled shoppers late in the afternoon after its electronic payment systems went down across the country, with customers forced to withdraw cash at nearby ATMs to pay for their products.
Sydneysiders Navin and Priya Choudhany arrived in town at 7am hoping to beat the rush. In two hours, most of their shopping was done.
“Only now, it’s becoming crowded,” said Navin, speaking to the Herald around 10am. “It’s been busy, but it’s been nothing like Black Friday.”
It is hoped this year’s Boxing Day sales inject $2.5 billion into the retail sector.
When executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, was at Pitt Street at 5am he “started to worry” about the quiet start.
“By the time it got to around 10am, we really started to see the crowds come in,” said Zimmerman, “I think we’ll get the numbers that we’ve forecast – we certainly hope we will.”
By midmorning, Leone and Evander Ikinepule could see the volume of shoppers from their hotel room in the Swissotel Sydney. Visiting Australia with their family from Auckland, they decided to join the fray.
“[The crowds] have been overwhelming”, Leone said, “but not too bad.”
Randwick resident Hazrain Arsyad came prepared to shop all day for the “once a year event”.
“We planned what we wanted to buy first- mainly clothes,” said Arsyad “but after seeing the sales, it’s been much harder to stick to the list”.
Although definite numbers won’t be known until the close of business, Mr Zimmerman said NSW would “probably be around 3 per cent up, maybe just a bit under that, on last year’s sales”.
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