It’s been another rollicking pre-Christmas party season in most Norwegian cities, but local residents have been more subdued when it comes to spending money. Tuesday was still expected to become the year’s busiest shopping day, but economists expect the country’s economic downturn to be reflected in retailers’ overall revenues.
It was pouring rain in Oslo late Tuesday afternoon, and many stores were advertising that they’d stay open until midnight, to get the most out of last-minute shoppers.
“We think we’ll see sales of between NOK 3.2 billion and 3.3 billion on Tuesday,” Bror William Stende of the retailers’ professional organization Virke told news bureau NTB. A survey conducted by research firm Ipsos MMI for Norway’s biggest bank, DNB, suggested that more than a million Norwegians would be out shopping on Tuesday.
Several shopping centers otherwise have been seeing a decline in revenues this Christmas shopping season, after years of steady increases. Figures were mixed late Monday, with some reports of an increase in sales in, for example, Northern Norway but either declines or very little growth in Western Norway, which has been hit the hardest by cutbacks in the oil industry. The weakest growth was reported by clothing and shoe stores.
Predictions for a more sober shopping season first started appearing in November, when newspaper Aftenposten reported, for example, that consumption was declining in Norway even though income kept growing, albeit relatively modestly. Retailing groups were optimistic, expecting an increase in total receipts of 2.4 percent, but state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) produced figures showing that private consumption was stagnating.
Spending less, saving more
In short, reported SSB, Norwegians were shopping less and saving more. Seasonally adjusted consumption figures in September showed a decline of 0.6 percent in consumer spending, compared to an inrease of 1.7 percent in the same month last year.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported earlier this month that the shopping centers had seen sales slump after a spike in revenues on so-called “Black Friday,” the last Friday in November which was heavily promoted for the first time in Norway as a day for special offers. Virke itself reported a decline in sales from the week ending that Friday to the next week for the first time ever, but attributed it to unusually high volumes on November 27.
Despite the newfound sobriety, Norwegians still tend to spend the most on Christmas within the Nordic countries. A pre-season survey conducted by TNS Gallup for Nordea Bank showed Norwegians intending to spend around NOK 9,500 (USD 1,090) on gifts and celebrations this year, compared to the equivalent of NOK 5,600 by Swedes, NOK 6,000 by Danes and 4,700 by Finns.