The holiday season's shopping hangover

Joseph, an Army veteran and now taxi driver said he wanted to be more generous with gifts for his wife and grown daughters, but the household budget constrained his heartfelt feelings of giving big.
by Ghadir Hamadi and Rana Tabbara

30 January 2019 | 09:58

Source: by Annahar

One of the many shopping advertisements during the holiday season enticing consumers to open their wallet and spend. (H/O)

BEIRUT: As the New Year turned the corner and the festive holiday season came to a halt, Lebanese consumers started packing their Christmas trees in cardboard boxes that would reside in the attic until next year.

However, the aftermath of holiday season spending is still lingering.

Many guessed that because of the slow economy, retail sales would not jump markedly during the final quarter of the year.

However, Gracia Abboud, owner of a small local business that customizes T-shirts and mugs insisted that sales tripled in number throughout December.

“People were rushing in mostly to buy Secret Santa gifts,” Abboud noted.

Sami Dbouk, who owns a small supermarket in Beirut, complained that suppliers increased the price of goods during 2018 – in part based on increased taxes – and this left “supermarkets with no choice but to increase the prices of their products simultaneously.”

However, Dbouk told Annahar that customers still flocked into the supermarket to buy the necessities of the season.

A small shop owner in Furn El Chebbak told Annnahar that he put all the revenue he made during the holiday season back into products for his shop.

“People definitely bought more during the holiday season. I put all the money back into the store though. I didn’t have enough product to sell.” Fares Wehbe told Annhar.

Maya Njeim’s son works in retail, and she noted that during the holiday season “he would come home way later than he usually would, and would state that the sales of the store he worked for were skyrocketing and people were purchasing goods worth thousands of dollars daily.”

TARÉ is a product and interior design brand that offers to its clientele growing art pieces and recently introducing its first collection titled: “Quado." Company founders, Mohammad Barraj and Mohammad Charafeddine, noted that throughout December people were buying a marked increase of artistic-plants as gifts.

Shortcut is a one-stop online resource that helps its customers know first-hand about the latest events taking place across the country.

Founder, Maroun Karam, told Annahar that his business had 15 percent more ads and a 40 percent increase in traffic on their website during the holiday season.

“People are excited during the holidays, they want to spend their nights out and attend interesting events. Keeping all that traffic in mind, ads also increased which is the main increase of our revenues,” Karam noted.

Joseph, an Army veteran and now taxi driver said he wanted to be more generous with gifts for his wife and grown daughters, but the household budget constrained his heartfelt feelings of giving big.

A Wooden Bakery employee, who chose to stay anonymous, told An Nahar that Bûche sales declined during the holiday season.

“We didn’t sell as much Bûche de Noël as we did last year, at least at this location. I’m not sure if people chose to make homemade Bûche, or not have one at all this year.”

Bolstering what many Lebanese already know as the reality of their own budget and how far their wages will, was the recently published Byblos Consumer Confidence report of the final quarter of the year.

According to the Byblos report, the confidence index regressed 0.9 percent in October from the preceding month, declined another 0.8 in November and jumped right at the holiday period by 5.3 percent in December, leaving the overall index unchanged from the 75.3 in the third quarter of 2018.

The bank noted in a statement that the stagnation was attributed to the “systemic obstruction of government formation” which was a key reason for the stagnating consumer confidence levels.

Byblos Chief Economist Nassib Ghobril noted, “Lebanese citizens had high expectations that the various political parties would quickly form a government and implement concrete reforms to improve their quality of living and economic well-being.”

Now that the holiday shopping season is over, many Lebanese consumers are complaining about the aftermath of their holiday shopping.

Ali Younes, a high school math teacher, said that he’s starting his January broke since he maxed out on his credit card in December during the holiday season.

“I went on a 10-day vacation to Turkey with my friends and spent every last penny I had,” he said with a laugh “I can’t even afford going to the movies before February.”

Despite borrowing money from a friend of his to be able to “properly enjoy the holiday season," government employee and father of three who wished to remain anonymous insisted that he has no regrets.

“We spend the whole year working our hearts out, day in day out, and even then our salaries are never able to cover the costs of living in this country, so this December I decided to do what I always wanted to do; spend without thinking of the consequences.”

----- Contributed Christina Farhat

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