Holiday shopping set no big records

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After some mixed reports earlier in the month, it appears that this year’s holiday shopping season in Norway ended with consumers showing more restraint than in recent years. Shopping centers reported only modest increases, even a few declines, in sales, and retailers think shoppers were more price- and quality-conscious.

Steen & Strøm, which operates around 30 shopping centers around the country, reported a “weak” increase in sales of 0.5 percent during the week before Christmas, according to newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) . From the last week of November, sales were up an average of 2.5 percent.

“Christmas came later in the week this year, so there wasn’t as much panic buying,” Sigbjørn Hoem, a director at Steen & Strøm, told DN. He also thinks consumers were “more careful” with their shopping this year.

Stores were still busy, though, and retailers’ association HSH predicted December sales of about NOK 46 billion this year, reports newspaper Aftenposten , with around NOK 12 billion of that tied to Christmas shopping. Much of that is also tied to food, not just gift-buying.

There had been media reports of sales increases and predictions of strong holiday revenues a few weeks ago, but then sales tapered off before picking up just before the holidays. All told, HSH officials seemed generally pleased, given effects of the global finance crisis and slightly rising interest rates.

Charitable organizations reported an increase in donations tied to gift-giving. Symbolic gifts such as certificates claiming that donations have been made in their names have risen in popularity. Norwegian Church Aid, for example, collected thousands of kroner from people for their series of “gifts that can change the world,” like goats for women in Africa, mosquito nets to fight malaria and desks for schools in impoverished areas.

“Instead of giving away another popcorn-popper or something else meaningless, we’re finding gifts that the giver and recipient can find a meaning for,” Bendik Samuelsen of the Institute for Marketing at business college BI, told newspaper Dagsavisen .