Christmas fairs and fares: How they shape our shopping

Hobart Tasmania

The busy Salamanca Market in Hobart

I was talking with a number of friends about their traditional Christmas shopping habits and whether those habits would change much this year. There was a good mixture of shoppers.

One had not only finished their Christmas shopping by December 1, but had bought many of the small things that go into Christmas, such as napkins, crackers and new lights in the New Year sales last year. She is a very efficient soul in all parts of her life.

Another had spent many of the past weekends at Christmas fairs buying artisan-made presents from small stall holders. Everything from echidna-shaped boot brushes to original paintings. Their mission was uniqueness and the “small shop” approach, long before it became a marketing tool; a good one though.

The final example, an early adopter of online shopping having run an online boutique, had stated clearly that this year they would be doing all their shopping online. They were super busy, but also wanted to buy things from craft sites, specifically a wicker basket for a friend in Queensland. There was no way she could find one without traipsing around Christmas fairs, and an online purchase from an Australian site was her goal. Handmade here and delivered cost-effectively.

I caught up with her a few days ago. The wicker basket had been bought; she’d purchased something for a friend in Europe via Amazon UK, which had been delivered 48 hours later. She did observe that this year, due to the lower Aussie dollar and the cost of shipments, she had spent much more than last year, maybe 80% of her online dollars, here in Australia, predominantly in small independent retailers. Oh and she had been late night shopping at a major mall. Surprise! What, not 100% online?

Her answer was interesting, but the outcome sadly only reinforced her decision to go online, and not because of the shops.

An invite to late night shopping after work with a daughter and girlfriend, meant a girls night out. Five hours in a top mall, expensive fashion shops and dinner in a good restaurant in the mall. About as good as it gets.

A wonderful shopping experience right up until all three, who must have spent $500 each over the five hours, had to pay $7 parking fee to leave the mall.

Now $7 divided by $500 is a very small percentage for the shopper. But $7 divided by the hundreds of millions of dollars of sales that flow through the mall is crazy small.

A mall operator charges tenants for the space they use, and to bring shoppers into the mall, for the chance that the shopper will shop in the tenants’ stores. I’m not sure why the mall operator needs to charge the shopper to leave.

My online shopper may actually go 100% online next year. Pity because it had been a great night of bricks-and-mortar shopping until then.

Kevin Moore is the chairman of Crossmark Asia Pacific Holdings.

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