The artificial Christmas trees and extensive Christmas lights which traditionally adorn our favourite retail stores may be culled this year. Statistics from Retail NZ show that 27 percent of retailers have flagged Christmas decorations completely.
According to Greg Harford from Retail NZ, the movement away from Christmas decorations “is mainly because it’s thought that decorations will not boost sales in particular kinds of stores”.
Retail stores offer a certain level of ambiguity when celebrating Christmas spirit: are shoppers really meant to believe that Rudolph is present in the supermarket? Is the guy manning the forklift at Mitre 10 meant to be one of Santa’s elves? Does anyone truly find mistletoe seductive, and if so, is that really an appropriate decoration for a shop? Regardless of any dubious efforts to celebrate Christmas, it appears retailers are trying a seasonal blend for this year’s Christmas decorations.
Further Retail NZ statistics show the largest proportion of retail stores are combining themes from the northern and southern hemispheres. It’s uncertain how the blend will go down in the retail space, but for Santa, it looks like he’s getting a sausage in a sandwich with his milk and cookies.
Harford shares his impression on why such a large number of retailers are combining themes of both winter and summer: "Many retailers are currently decorating their stores for the festive period, and 45 per cent of are opting for a combination of summer and winter themes, reflecting the traditional northern hemisphere Christmas, fused with the Kiwi summer holiday experience.”
Although our Christmas decorations are inspired by frosty UK and US white Christmases, Christmas in New Zealand is all about sunshine and flowering pohutakawa. Generally this means barbeques and social events are important, and Christmas shopping signals a key sales period for retailers who rely on the bulk of its profits during this time of the year. In fact 2016 accounted for a record breaking $6 billion spent by New Zealanders in the month of December.
Although the outsourced retail giants will mop up a lot of the spending, Harford hopes consumers look to buy locally.
“Retail NZ is encouraging consumers to shop local during the festive season,” he says. “Shopping local not only supports local businesses and local jobs, but also means that consumers are fully protected by the Consumer Guarantees Act and Fair Trading Act."
One local retailer joining in on the festivities is The Bach, a surf shop based in Matakana, which is looking to attract customers with a few humble Christmas decorations of its own. Store owner Sophie Hauser believes decorations provide good morale for the community, but says it doesn’t necessarily connect with sales rates.