Banking on last-minute shoppers

BUSINESSES across the region are pleading with the community to ‘shop local' this Christmas.

On average, retail sales are down significantly compared with last year. Most business chambers are reporting sales are either steady or slightly down on previous years.

“Turnover is down and at best (trade) it's been flat,” Alstonville-Wollongbar Chamber of Commerce president Les Wiles said.

While many small businesses have reported sales below last year's levels, Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive officer Nadia Eliott-Burgess, and Casino Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman Mick Greentree, said for some, trade was still ahead of previous years.

“One was up a whopping 65 per cent, another up 15 per cent, and a ladies' fashion store reports that this is their best Christmas trade ever,” Ms Eliott-Burgess said.

But rainy weather has kept many customers away and, in Bangalow, fire recently decimated two businesses.

“The retailers are hopeful the current spell of good weather will hold,” Brunswick Heads Chamber of Commerce executive officer Lisa Scheithe said.

Open for its very first Christmas period, Lismore business Magella Rose has had plenty of customers.

“We don't have a previous year to compare with, but I'm happy with how we're going,” owner Beverley Tainsh said.

Ms Tainsh feels her wide range of stock and the additional customer support could be helping her buck the general trend of flat sales.

“I cater for newborns to 90-year-olds and we can help people choose gifts and wrap them,” she said.

Many retailers are still hoping for a late surge of Christmas shoppers.

Kyogle Chamber of Commerce president Joanne Moore said retailers were bracing for a busy next few days but added sales this year were not likely to reach the levels of last year.

“There has been a slide but you really can't go on last year's figures because there was still some (federal economic) stimulus money around.”

Byron United president Sevegne Newton said Christmas shopping in Byron Bay had been lacklustre and shopkeepers were hoping for an amazing next five days.

While Boxing Day sales in the cities usually attract thousands, individual shopkeepers in regional areas will decide if they open on Boxing Day and public holidays.

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