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Pre-Christmas Activity Warms Up, But Sales Still Fall Short

The Christmas holiday is almost here. Unseasonably warm conditions have chilled sales somewhat. But in the final countdown to the gift-giving holiday, shoppers are warming to the idea of parting with their hard-earned cash.

In anticipation of the holiday, Christmas traffic is expected to pick up from around mid-day Friday, and should be busy until six in the evening. With people traveling over several days, no serious bottlenecks are expected. The busiest roadways will be Route 3 from Helsinki to Tampere and Route 4 from Helsinki to Lahti continuing on to Mikkeli and Jyväskylä.

Even the Scrooges are getting into the spirit, with Christmas sales showing some improvement, although still short of expected targets. Shoppers have been typically slow to get into the buying mood, and the unusually warm weather has also put a damper on sales of outdoor clothing - padded jackets and socks aren't the first choice for Christmas presents, and have already been moved to the sale racks.

Business owners are not letting their disappointment show - and there has been some cause for satisfaction. Early reports from the Federation of Finnish Commerce indicate some growth in Christmas sales compared to last year. However, that growth has slowed down from previous years, and the anticipated 6 per cent growth will probably not be realised.

The Christmas celebrations will clear the way for annual end-of-year sales, which have surfaced earlier than usual because of the weaker holiday sales. In Finland seasonal sales account for about 200 million euros, while Christmas shopping itself rakes in close to 800 million.

Meanwhile at his hideout in the Arctic Circle, Santa Claus has received a record number of letters this year. Almost 700 million letters and cards have from around the world. Mots of the letters are in English, but this year, Polish children seem to have taken a particular interest in the bearded gift-giver.


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