(Port Elizabeth) – Despite a sluggish national economy and threatened ratings downgrades, experts say Nelson Mandela Bay retailers have nothing to fear in terms of consumer spending this festive season.
While the economy was tightening at a macro-level, NMMU economist Professor Ronney Ncwadi said these realities were not yet reflected at a local level.
“At this time of year, a number of private firms pay bonuses to their employees, while members of stokvels and social savings clubs also draw their savings,” said Ncwadi, adding that these were often used to purchase a few seasonal luxuries. He said household incomes had, in fact, increased in real terms, as there had been no interest rate hikes and the inflation rate had been “kept in check at a little over the bounds at 6.2%”.
“Further, consumers are faced with easy access to credit both from formal and informal money lenders.”
Because of the availability of easy credit, Ncwadi said he did not foresee any reductions in consumer spending. This was borne out by the massive increases in foot traffic across local malls on Black Friday.
In anticipation of the expected seasonal boom, the Bay’s largest shopping centre, Baywest Mall, has extended its trading hours.
From December 9 to 23, the centre will offer extended retail trading hours from 9am to 9pm daily, with restaurants and eateries staying open till 10pm. Doors will close at 7pm for last-minute shopping on Christmas Eve, while selected retailers will trade until 1pm on Christmas Day.
Baywest Mall marketing manager Christopher Hutchings said December was a key trading period for retailers and that late night shopping provided added convenience for stressed-out mall-goers. The kick-off of the centre’s busy period began with on Black Friday, he said.
“This is an extremely busy time of year for Bay residents, what with juggling year-end functions and seasonal commitments,” said Hutchings.
“By staying open later, we are aiming to give our shoppers a bit of breathing room in their busy schedules and help them get their Christmas shopping done with ease.
“For those who simply don’t know what to get someone special, we’ve also introduced a Baywest Mall gift card, which can be used at any of our stores.”
He said the Eastern Capes largest mall had also attracted six new store brands in time for the festive season, including clothing and footwear brands Street Fever and Refinery and furniture stores Cielo Lifestyle and Village Gate Interiors.
“Adding to the festive vibe, Baywest Mall is now home to The Christmas Shop, which is a wonderland of seasonal décor to inspire visitors, young and old, and get them into the Christmas spirit.”