It was hoped IT retailers would thrive from a Christmas rush to set them in good steed for the coming year. But like the rest of 2001, Christmas proved unpredictable.
Speaking to retailers around the nation, it was either a case of falling short of expectations or exceeding them.
Across the board, retailers reported that door-counts and walk-through rates (ie the numbers of customers coming into stores) was up on previous years, but in many cases this did not necessarily result in a sale. Many smaller independent retailers suggested they are finding it harder to compete with the marketing power of the larger retailers every year. "There is just no way we can compete with their Christmas promos," said one Melbourne retailer.
Outside of the central business districts, there were positive signs from several retailers who recorded better figures. They are hoping the increase in sales over December may represent an overall improvement in the market for the coming year. "January is already showing signs of being strong," said Bob Johnson, managing director of A & R Computers in South Australia. "It's very pleasing - I hope it keeps going."
Glen Negus, managing director of Concorde Computers in Queensland said his sales staff recorded positive results with a general upswing in sales. In particular, new digital video and audio editing products showed the most growth over the Christmas period.
IT resellers of which retail sales make up only part of their business were generally disappointed, buoyed only by the promise of healthy order books for services work early in the new year. Resellers such as Lorenzo Coppa, managing director of City Software and International Software Warehouse in Melbourne, said the end of financial year is more likely to be a boom sales period than Christmas.
Coppa is doubtful that any increase in retail sales over the Christmas break could be the sign of things turning around in the economy.
"I don't see a lot of indicators that would suggest 2002 should be any better than 2001," he said. "The key vendors aren't doing anything big and the economy is pretty tight. I don't see any red-hot revolutionary products and the economy is not providing enough money for people to experiment with new products anyway. We are expecting a really tough year."