Merchants expect a merry Christmas
With just six weeks to go, both merchants and shoppers are gearing up for what they expect to be a merry Christmas.
In fact, store owners and operators across the Corporate Area are confident that the challenging economic climate will not in the least dampen the holiday spirit. From downtown Kingston to the uptown shopping districts in St Andrew, businesses have been pulling out all the stops from early October to attract a steady flow of traffic leading into the normally hectic holidays.
Yesterday, staff at several well-decorated stores were busy stocking shelves with a wide variety of items.
Ammar's on King Street in downtown Kingston was fully stocked, with additional items coming in to meet the demand of the holiday shoppers.
Manager Fay Hyatt said shoppers started purchasing household items last month, moving on to items for children earlier this month.
"The mood and trend is the same as always - housewares, then children, then themselves. They have been nipping at everything. I have very high expectations for this Christmas. Although chik-V (chikungunya) has slowed down some persons, they are still getting their shopping done," Hyatt said.
Across the street, Woolworth was loaded with a wide assortment of everything: decorations, food, household items, clothing, books - you name it.
Shopper Donnette Anderson was diligently browsing through the bathroom accessories, as she plans to redo that section of her house for the holidays.
"I bought curtains last month already; so month end, I want to buy things for the bathroom and fix it up. So I'm just looking around to find what I like at the best price, to know where to shop month end," she shared with a smile.
Electronics, phones, phone accessories and gadgets are always hot items for Christmas and BAP Wireless in the ever-busy Half-Way Tree Transportation Centre in St Andrew is in high preparation gear.
"We expect the shop to be quite busy this Christmas. You can never go wrong with phone accessories and the hottest gadgets. That is always in demand, and we have some great new items our customers will love," stated Marketing Director Demola Cunningham.
At the Mall and Village plazas on Constant Spring Road, several young men were hard at work in the midday sun, erecting a huge Christmas tree and adorning other areas for the festive season.
Angela Lovelace, manager at Lee's Fifth Avenue in Tropical Plaza, said: "We plan to do very well this year. We have exciting plans for Christmas, and already, we are feeling the vibrancy from shoppers. We know we have to keep restocking based on what we are seeing."
President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Warren McDonald, said there was a general mood of cautious optimism among its members.
"The economy has been showing marginal growth for several quarters now, so we would expect that this Christmas would be certainly no worse than last year's. It should show some improvement in consumer spending," McDonald told The Gleaner.
"We are cautiously optimistic, not expecting a bumper Christmas, but we feel that it will be a good year, with some improvement over the previous year."
For the period December 24-31, 2013, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) recorded net currency redemption of $57.4 million or 0.08 per cent from commercial banks, building societies and cambios.
This net redemption resulted in the stock of currency as at December 31, 2013, being $69.8 billion, which implied a net increase of $11.5 billion or 19.6 per cent in currency issue for the month. The increase was largely in line with the central bank's projection for growth of 19.0 per cent.
The BOJ said the annual growth in currency issue was 7.9 per cent for 2013, compared to an increase of 3.3 per cent for 2012, which had a currency issue increase of 19.18 per cent or $10.4 billion.
With the currency projections for this December not yet released, McDonald expects it to continue on the upward trend.