Jury still very much out on what sort of Christmas is ahead for retailersChristmas parties may be well underway, but with a couple of weeks still to go, retailers agree things are just starting to ramp up in terms of festive season sales.
Robert Hayes, marketing director at national electronics retailer Tandy, envisages it being "buoyant, without being excessive".
"There's a lot of comment out in the marketplace about interest rates and especially personal credit so I believe people will be conservative, but at the same time Christmas has always been late, so indications this year will [also] be late." Hayes thinks people at the moment are still not thinking Christmas, particularly as there will be a full seven days trading in the lead-up to the big day.
According to Mark Pogson, computer retail manager at Retravision NSW, the retailer is expecting this Christmas to be even better than last year.
According to Pogson, it has had about a 300 per cent growth in the last year for its computer sales, something he believes will be reflected in increased sales over the Christmas season as well.
He also believes Pokemon silver and gold games and Game Boys consoles will be popular. Digital cameras and notebooks are other products he thinks will make some customer's Christmas lists.
Tony Prince, manager of reseller ComPlus, believes it's going to be a good Christmas and predicts one of the big sellers is going to be CD burners, having already seen steady increases in sales for these devices. He attributes this to a drop in price point, making them more affordable for the home market. "But they're also going into the business market. People are buying them as back-up devices because they're so much less expensive than tapes."
DVDs and Web cameras are other products Prince thinks will be popular because they're now "an affordable present".
According to Prince, October and November are traditionally quieter, because people often wait until about the second week of December to start on their Christmas shopping.
Martin Hourigan, home office buyer for retailer David Jones, expects sales to be well up on last year, driven by the introduction of new technologies such as handheld PCs.
Hourigan said things have already started to ramp up for Christmas, in about the same time frame as previous years. "A week before Christmas, we do extraordinary figures." He agrees the opportunity to have a full weekend before Christmas Day will certainly help, although he expects things to taper off on the Sunday afternoon as per normal.
On the online front, Tandy's Hayes is hoping it will have its new online partnership with Smartbuy up and running by about December 21. Currently the electronics retailer's customers can mail order through its existing Web site, or via Tandy's cyberstore on Yahoo.
Michel Hedley, spokesperson for the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), an organisation which represents IT&T companies in Australia, also thinks it should be a pretty good Christmas.
Hedley says the feedback he has had from Web shop organisations is that they've done a lot of work getting things ready. There are a couple of areas he suggests e-tailers should be thinking about in preparation for Christmas: providing guarantees about delivery; a reasonable return policy; and to convince customers of the security of the online transactions they're making.
And Logan Ringland, IDC's senior analyst, computing hardware at market, offers a word of caution about being too optimistic: "It's going to be an interesting year, what with the Olympics and so forth having taken away a lot of what people would normally have as disposable income for this time of year."
Other factors such as increases in the prices of some goods because of the weaker Australian dollar and the GST, Ringland believes, may also have an impact.