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Enough with the predictions!

Good tidings come in many forms, one of which over the past two weeks has been a veritable orgy of ‘predictions’ that consumer spending is going through the roof.

How far through the roof depends on which set of predictions you care to believe. No-one actually seems to agree on how good a Christmas retailers are going to experience, but they all reckon it’s a bobby dazzler in the making!

The Commonwealth Bank last Friday reckoned ‘Australians are expected to spend more than $18 billion this Christmas, with the next few days expected to be the busiest time for retailers. (Don’t know about the $18 bil, but that last bit seems fairly safe, depending on your definition of ‘few’. Phew.)

Consumers will spend $2.2 billion more than last year, said the bank. And it ought to know, having surveyed 1000 people. Other astounding insights were that almost half expected to do their Christmas shopping last weekend. (But half of them probably didn’t get around to it, according to the Photo Counter ‘Gunna’ Index.)

More than $7.9 billion is expected to be spent on Christmas gifts, said Which Bank, which is more than $100 million more than a year ago. ($100 million more in a spend of $7.9 billion? Doesn’t that seem a bit exact to you based on a survey of the intentions of just 1000 people? Just sayin’…)

The Australian National Retailers Association (ANRA) also saw this prediction business as a bandwagon worth jumping on – big time – issuing virtually a press release a day over the past couple of weeks with somewhat contradictory but nonetheless eye-catching pronouncements.

So early last week the mouthpiece of Big Retail thundered: ‘The next fortnight will see Australian shoppers out in force, with spending set to hit $7,070,000,000 this week in what will be the second biggest shopping week of the year. (No prizes for guessing what the ANRA predicted to be the biggest shopping week. But that’s in a separate press release.)

Warming to the theme, ANRA CEO Margy Osmond continued to share her acute insights into retailing: ‘We’ve reached the serious end of the shopping calendar and Australian shoppers are expected to spend almost $16 billion over the next fortnight in what will be the two biggest shopping weeks of the entire year,’ The entire year, OK?

Then the ANRA felt compelled to spread a bit more good cheer on Monday: ‘Australian consumers will move their Christmas shopping into top gear this week, spending more more than $8,700,000,000 in the next seven days, according to the ANRA  and GE Capital Christmas Retail Index.’

Ms Osmond said that Christmas shopping will intensify this week as shoppers finalise Christmas preparations. (Once again on safe ground there, Margy.)

‘Retailers will be bracing themselves for a Christmas shopping frenzy over the next seven days where sales are expected to surge more than $1.65 billion since last week to $8.7 billion – up 23 percent.

‘In-store the tills will be ringing around the clock with spending expected to soar to $7.8 billion – up 23 percent from last week’s spending in bricks and mortar stores.’

(Readers are advised not to try to make any sense of all these duelling figures. Photo Counter did, and had to take two Panadols as a consequence.)

Throwing caution to the wind, the ANRA then upped the ante. What the hell, it is Christmas: ‘Retailers around the country expect to see almost $12 billion in spending – more than double what was spent last week – in the last minute rush to Christmas, according to the latest projections from the ANRA and GE Capital Christmas Retail Index.’

We tried to ascertain exactly what the ‘ANRA and GE Capital Christmas Retail Index’ was, given its ability to generate – it would seem virtually at random – such encouraging and to the casual reader confusingly contradictory figures. But the ANRA press releases didn’t tell us. Perhaps we simply shouldn’t be looking a Christmas gift horse in the mouth… Or is it the other side of the horse we are looking at here?

Anyway, all that hard and glittering data can’t do the ANRA’s constituents’ share prices and harm.

Not to be outdone, the National Retailers Association (NRA) predicted that consumer spending in the lead up to Christmas in Australia is set to hit a record $40 billion – but to be fair, that was over over six weeks.

This, said the NRA, would be a 3 percent increase in sales compared to 2012, when spending was a mere $38.8 billion.

– A record of only $40 billion? ‘Hurrumph,’ says the Australian Retailers Association (ARA), we can do better than that: According to them, $42.2 billion is expected to go through retail tills from November 14 until December 25, representing a 3.5 percent gain on sales during the same period in 2012, (which were $40.7 billion, not $38.8 billion, according to the ARA’s figures.)

‘Bricks and mortar stores will experience a sizeable increase in sales at the till, with spending expected to hit $5.5 billion – an increase of 32 percent since last week.’ (To be honest I’m not entirely sure who from what organisation made the above statement – but I thought I’d throw it in anyway.)

– At this stage, Photo Counter had to stop compiling all this twaddle, as the Panadols were wearing off.

We are proud to boast that we resisted the temptation of filling the gaps in the silly season editorial line-up with such confusing nonsense. Does anybody actually read this guff before whacking it down on their business pages and websites? What happened to respect for one’s readers?

We at Photo Counter think that none of these predictions – which are essentially bank and business association corporate branding exercises – are worth a separate story, but casting around the business and retail trade press, it’s clear they’ve provided a handy stop-gap in these last few weeks of the year when the alternative – actually running some meaningful editorial – is all too hard.

And while we haven’t got a clue how many billions consumers will spend this Christmas and which bloody week they are going to spend it in, and how many percentage points better than last year that makes it – we do hope they spend some with our readers.

– So all the best for Christmas and a prosperous 2014!


One Comment

  1. ron frank ron frank December 29, 2013

    Dear Keith,
    I do not swear at you so please desist the retire word socks and having now do it 4 I speak with some authority
    Yes 2008 my son’s took on the task of running the show and I am happy to say they are doing it well but I spend my time as their adviser and for future I have started a ccomplete new business. First week in the new year I start developing 17 home units in the hamlet of Armadale 19 mile south of Perth so that should be fun. Please keep up your forum and do not be afraid to ask the I dusty to support you with some specific advertising. An observation I must make is that to many store have stock that their sales staff do not understand so as an Industy we need to educate ourselves better. Get the importers to hold instructional seminars,video them and distribute to their clients base
    I bid you a long and healthy life with all the prosperity that you deserve
    Ron Frank

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