It is clear that the weather plays a big role in the fortunes of traders in the local area over the holiday season but maybe what has emerged more clearly this year is the role played by presentation.
From those who took advantage of the Christmas season with decorations, retailers who made their shops interesting and enticing places to browse, there was a more united effort to attract customers and to a large extent these appeared to work.
Booktique enjoyed the best January in four years, owner, Michelle Delle Vergin said. “Basically the trade up to Christmas was exactly the same as last year but that meant we had to sell more as the unit price of books has come down.”
After Christmas though trade was “streets ahead of last year; it was a great January,” Ms Delle Vergin said.
Debbie Isles of Merimbula Fresh Food Market said she was very happy with the season. “We had an excellent Christmas about 25 per cent up on last year. In the first half of the summer period there were good numbers of people in town and they spent. We were up 5-10 per cent on that period but in the second half of summer there was a more budget conscious shopper.”
Ms Isles attributes much of their success to the new shop and its display space.
There was delight too at fishing shop, Tackle World where owners, Gael and Ron Vanderdrift said it had been the best season since they took over the shop, 13 years ago. “We had an influx of people before Christmas and I guess they must have bought Christmas presents and then there was just a multitude of people. It was so good to see. The weather is obviously a major factor for us,” Mrs Vanderdrift said.
Mr Vanderdrift said: “Consumer spending has eased a little and people won’t give up their passions.”
Weather played a positive role for Simon Emms at Merimbula Surf Shop where he reported “a solid Christmas due to the weather”.
Mr Emms said that there were a lot of young families in town whereas his market tended to be older teenagers and above but he had seen a lot of repeat business with Christmas trade leading into a somewhat variable but overall solid holiday season.
Tim Smith at Merimbula’s Boardwalk Ice Creamery said that while takings were on a par with last year, the spread of trade was different.
“Evenings were quieter than last year but breakfast, lunches and coffee sales were up. The Japanese pancakes were a real attraction for breakfast and that helped to push coffee sales up,” he said.
At Ginger and Luvvy, Joan Hardy said that it had been “quite a good season at both shops”.
But president of the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce, Natalie Godward, said: “While the Christmas trade was good, it seems no one was overwhelmed. A number of people opened for seven day trade but the question is whether it was worthwhile in terms of the trade produced.”
Obviously some traders didn’t do so well as Mrs Godward said that there was no consistency in what was being said.
The Pambula Chamber of Commerce carried out a marketing campaign to increase the town’s profile and Marie Worden, of Mrs MacPherson’s Emporium believed it worked. She said: “The lead up to Christmas was the same as last year but as soon as Christmas came there was a lot more foot traffic in Pambula. I think we might have had some of the dollars that usually stay in Merimbula.”
Ms Worden said that it had been noticeable that the afternoons were busy. “People came off the beach for lunch and then afterwards looked around the shops. There were more people walking around and more in the shop.”
Pubs and clubs seemed to enjoy varying degrees of extra business with Tony Harmey at the Royal Willows, Pambula saying: “It was great, fantastic, better than last year. People seemed to be more positive.”
At the Top Pub, Natalie Kell said that it had been a good season. “Pambula seemed to be pumping, there were a lot of people around.”
The Merimbula RSL Club drew in families with its face painting program and increased its lunch business. Secretary manager, Michael Mutsch said that the club had “traded very well, comparable to last year”.
At the Pambula Merimbula Golf Club, general manager, Michelle Vernon was delighted with the season.
“It was fantastic, better than last year and nice and busy during the day. The good weather brought the golfers out. In the evenings we were doing 600-650 for dinner for a lot of January. It really pushed our caterers,” Ms Vernon said.
The positive vibe was in evidence at Club Sapphire too where CEO, Damien Foley said: “We had a terrific Christmas and January. It was different to previous years. Although it slowed a little after the main holiday, it continued on longer than in previous years to the end of January.
Mr Foley said that sales revenue was up 10 per cent and that it had been the best season for five years with all departments performing well.
Of course the unknown factor is how much of a role the weather played in relation to any marketing. Throughout the Christmas period, the area enjoyed wonderful weather. Reliable sunny weather can mean that visitors are less likely to spend every moment on the beach as they know they can go back the next day. Also greater awareness of the damage the sun can do, can bring people off the beach before the heat of the midday sun, which is when they start looking for somewhere to eat and something to do after lunch. And that’s when marketing and presentation comes into play.