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Late rush for gifts saves Christmas for retailers

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Retailers at Cyprus malls are delighted as visits and turnovers are close to those recorded in pre-coronavirus 2019, following two years of restrictions during the festive season.

Missing out on last year’s Christmas shopping season, when retailers make 30% of their annual turnover, shops said their traffic is only 5% under that recorded two years ago.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, George Georgiou, the Commercial Manager of the Nicosia Mall, said they were pleased to see the mall packed once more.

Shopping malls last year were closed on 10 December as part of measures introduced to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Shutting malls was a precursor to the second island-wide lockdown in January.

“Traffic in the first weeks of December this year, following Black Friday, which admittedly did not yield expected results, seemed to be hovering below traffic recorded in 2019.

“We are now almost at 2019 levels.

“All stores are in full swing, fully equipped, without any problems in deliveries because of COVID,” said Georgiou.

He added that despite some stores falling prey to the pandemic, the Nicosia Mall’s capacity is 100%, as new stores have arrived to fill in the gap.

“The only issue we are currently facing is some confusion over the new measures introduced.

“A large number of people who are not vaccinated or have not got a booster shot seven months after their last shot think that they are not allowed in malls.

The Nicosia Mall manager explained that the latest restrictions, including banning the unvaccinated and requesting people without a booster shot for a negative rapid test, apply only to hospitality venues.

Cyprus Mall’s Marketing Manager George Pissis said the new measures seemed to have impacted their traffic and preferred to refrain from estimating figures.

He said it was not feasible to compare last year because malls were closed for most of December.

“On the other hand, 2019 was a record year traffic-wise for Mall of Cyprus following the expansion project, and therefore, comparison with that year is not feasible either,” said Pissis.

Metropolis Mall

A newcomer to the market, Larnaca’s Metropolis Mall is more than pleased with the traffic they’ve seen ahead of their first Christmas.

“Simply saying that we are happy with traffic would be an understatement.

“On the weekend before Christmas, which is traditionally retailers’ best day of the year, we saw the mall and stores full,” said Marilena Palazi, the Metropolis Mall communication advisor.

“Despite the stormy weather brought on by the Cyclone Carmel, and confusion over new measures, people came out to do their Christmas shopping, making the weekend before Christmas the best on record so far.”

Some 400,000 visits were recorded at Larnaca’s mall in the first three weeks of December.

“We expect these numbers to increase as we get nearer to Christmas and New Year’s.”

Visitors will have an increased number of stores to choose from, as Woman’s Secret and Springfield have joined the Metropolis Mall.

“Beginning of January will be happy to welcome Kiko Milano and Armani Exchange to our mall,” said Palazi.

Credit cards

Credit card clearing agent JCC reported a significant increase in spending at retail shops from the weekend before Christmas.

According to JCC data, clothes and footwear stores recorded a 31% increase during December 17-19, compared to the previous weekend of December 10-12.

Shopping at toy and gift shops increased as expected at the weekend before Christmas, jumping 31% (compared to the weekend before) and by 29% compared to the same period last year.

JCC data, on the other hand, record a significant decrease in plastic money spent at restaurants, cafes and bars, dropping 19% during the weekend before Christmas compared to the previous weekend.

Small shops

However, retailers on busy high streets are not so happy, as the general secretary of the small shopkeepers’ association POVEK, Stephanos Koursaris, told the Financial Mirror.

“We are seeing people holding back, as an increase in the cost of living and confusion over protocols take a toll on the market,” said Koursaris.

“People have seen their purchasing power shrink in recent months, as the cost of energy and essential goods have taken off.

“Add the confusion over the new measures into the mix; one can understand why we see limited traffic at stores, especially on the high street.

“However, we are confident that traffic will pick up in the coming days.

“Many employees, including civil servants, were only paid their thirteenth salary just the other day.

“Despite having to cut down on outings due to measures, people will still be buying gifts for their loved ones.”