Shopping mall bosses optimistic about Xmas business

The managers of some of Austria’s largest shopping centres are confident regarding this year’s Christmas shopping.

Shopping City Süd (SCS) boss Anton Cech said today (Mon) he was “cautiously optimistic” considering activities in the coming weeks. The businessman told the Kurier additional free of charge bus lines between Vienna and his shopping centre were recently introduced to attract more people. The SCS is Europe’s largest shopping mall. It is situated south of Vienna. Cech warned that the economic crisis and soaring car petrol prices would harm people’s buying mood. He explained that SCS’ goal was to achieve last year’s turnover again this year.

Rudolf Richter, who heads the Ekazent shopping centre group, said a poll had shown that 40 per cent of people planning to do their shopping at malls intended to spend less this year while just one in 10 wanted to splash out more on presents.

The Kurier reports today that consulting and research group Ernst&Young found that Austrians wanted to spend 277 Euros on Christmas gifts this year, down by seven per cent compared to their average per capita expenditure in 2010.

Marcus Wild announced he was confident that “people preferred spending their money than saving it these days due to the low interest rates.” Wild, who heads the Spar European Shopping Center (SES) Group, said business activities of his company were not affected by the financial crisis of 2008 either. He told the Kurier that a three per cent turnover increase was envisaged for the current Christmas shopping period. Such a forecast would mean a real improvement of only 1.5 per cent due to price hikes, according to the newspaper. Wild pointed out that SES’ business did better in the first half of this year than in the same period in 2010.

Austria has the third-highest density of shopping centre selling space in Europe. The small country’s malls have an overall sales area of 14.5 million square metres, according to market researcher RegioData. The number of Austrian shopping centres rose to over 200 for the first time last year due to openings in Vienna (Riverside) and Vöcklabruck (Varena). Popular malls like Vienna’s Donauzentrum were renovated and expanded.

The country’s shopping malls had a turnover of 10.4 billion Euros last year. Around 69,000 people are working in their 7,500 stores. Austria’s malls counted over 480 million customers in 2010. Researchers recently explained that the current debt crisis had an impact on the prospering Austrian shopping centre business. A RegioPlan expert said there were better planned fewer projects these days.

The turnover of the Austrian retail sector – which is currently holding wage talks – inched down by 0.1 per cent in the first five months of 2011 compared to the same time span of 2010, KMU Forschung Austria said in August. Around 500,000 people are working in the domestic retail sector. Most of them are women. Many of them have part-time contracts.

Viennese pollster Karmasin found in October that 51 per cent of adult Austrians think that the economy could still be negatively affected by the current developments in the Eurozone in 2012. Another 26 per cent said they were certain that this would be the case. Just two per cent told the agency that this would certainly not be the case. Christoph Leitl, who heads the Austrian Economy Chamber (WKO) recently appealed to the state and its nine provinces to abstain from increasing charges for public services like rubbish disposal and tap water provision next year to stabilise the domestic economy in uncertain times.

Meanwhile, a poll among 400 residents of Vienna revealed that many wanted to spend more on Christmas presents this year than they did ahead of last year’s celebration. The WKO’s Viennese department (WKW) said people living in the city intended to spend 370 Euros, 10 Euros more than in 2010. Another result of the survey is that people planned to purchase eight gifts this year compared to only seven last year.

WKW President Brigitte Jank announced Vienna’s retail trade could expect a Christmas business turnover of 365 million Euros. She explained: “This would be a moderate increase of 1.5 per cent compared to last year.”