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December 2003 - Nr. 12


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Retailers register a solid start to the holiday season

TWIG - German consumers last weekend gave retailers a badly-needed boost in one of their toughest years on record. German shoppers were out in force looking for the perfect gift

Longer shopping hours and growing consumer confidence combined to ring up cheer for Germany’s hard-hit retailers, who registered a solid start to the holiday season last weekend despite plenty of signs that shoppers remain cautious and are on the lookout for bargains.

More than half of retailers surveyed said their sales last weekend were up from the same time a year ago, according to the HDE German retailers association.

That stands in contrast to dismal figures for the month of November, when a full 60% of German retailers said that sales had tumbled from the same month last year. Last weekend, just one-quarter of businesses polled reported a drop in turnover from last year.

This season’s must-have gifts include gadgets such as notebook PCs, DVD players and digital cameras as well as toys, books and jewellery, said Hubertus Pellengahr, a HDE spokesperson. Chocolates and holiday decorations also flew off the shelves last weekend.

Analysts said shoppers have been more willing to part with their hard-earned Euros since figures showed Germany’s economy grew slightly in the third quarter.

Consumers expect the economy to continue picking up steam in 2004 following a bleak year in which Germany had been stuck in the economic doldrums for three successive quarters.

All that is good news for retailers that have been especially hard-hit by the economic slow-down. But at stores last weekend, there were still plenty of signs that consumers are still keeping close tabs on holiday spending and looking for bargains.

Shoppers are watching their pocketbooks ahead of a final vote on German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s tax cut, according to analysts. "The consumption break is still on," said Pellengahr.

The planned tax break would put 15.6bn Eur ($18.9bn) back in the pockets of German consumers nex year, but it is still up in the air and is only scheduled to come up for a final vote in late December.


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