KINGSTON, Jamaica – With just a week before Christmas, many consumers in the Jamaica Corporate Area appear mixed on whether to jump into the usual Christmas shopping spree or restrain themselves because of a spike in the cost of living.
Business owners, however, are optimistic. They anticipate that stores will be packed with shoppers in the final days leading up to Christmas and the New Year.
Mark Myers, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, Sunday told The Gleaner that the dip in sales this season was being fuelled by high inflation, which is expected to crest at 13 per cent, nearly double the target forecast earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, what the trend seems to be is that the Christmas shopping period is getting shorter and shorter each year,” he said.
This, he said, could be blamed on shrinking consumer disposable income.
“The significant increase in petroleum products, in particular, has been driving increases throughout everything else,” said Myers, who heads one of Jamaica’s foremost fast-food outlets, KFC, which has increased prices recently. “The price of food, which is a necessity, has also gone up on a global level.”
Hikes in core products such as corn and grain on the international market have led to meteoric price rises for bread and other basic food items. The cost of fruits and vegetables, battered by Hurricane Dean and October rains, has also skyrocketed.
This has left little room for many individuals to indulge in other optional items.
Nevertheless, Michael Ammar Jr., owner of Ammar’s department stores, is hopeful.
“Things have been picking up at the store in Mall Plaza, but things are looking gloomy for the other stores, especially in downtown,” he told The Gleaner.
The general feedback, however, was that merchants will see an uptick in sales this week.
The Gleaner witnessed a low turnout of shoppers for many stores in uptown and downtown Kingston.
Most consumers were shopping for clothes, accessories and shoes to wear to parties in the festive season. High-end luxury items, such as jewellery, cellphones and iPods, also seem to be popular choices this Christmas.
Patrons flocking the stores along Constant Spring Road area yesterday, however, seemed more content with window-shopping than plunging into their pockets.
“Nuttin nah gwaan,” one higgler expressed.
“Mi just a gwaan watch and see. Nuh money nah run so mi cyaan shop like mi woulda want,” were the sentiments of another shopper.