By Peter Stevenson
WITH unemployment at record levels and those who do have jobs receiving lower wages, nearly 80 per cent of Cypriots have cut back on their spending this Christmas.
Ledra Street in the nation’s capital may have been thronged yesterday afternoon but very few people were carrying shopping bags. Almost everyone the Cyprus Mail spoke to were cutting back on their spending but at the same time re-discovering that Christmas does not have to be about splurging.
According to the Season’s Pulse survey conducted by Pulse Market Research, which measures behavioural and spending patterns during the holiday season, comparing tallies to last year’s responses, 79 per cent of those polled said they were cutting back on gift buying this year, and 52 per cent said they were spending less on groceries. Last year 74 per cent said they had cut back on gifts and 47 on food shopping.
More than half – 56 per cent – intend to exchange presents, marking a 6.0 percent drop over last year, but 69 per cent of those who buy toys for their children planned to spend less this year.
Shoes and clothing were being bought as presents by 32 per cent of respondents, down from last year’s 35 per cent, and 26 per cent planned to give much-needed cash as a present, although this is 7.0 per cent fewer cash-givers than last year. Interestingly the only increase in intent was when it came to buying books as a gift – something which is unusual in Cyprus. Whereas only just over one in 10 bought a book as a gift last year, this has risen by 3.0 per cent.
With regard to holiday activities, 87 per cent said they would spend Christmas with friends and relatives – only 5.0 per cent planned to go abroad – and 77 planned to put up a tree, 5.0 per cent fewer than last year.
The Cyprus Mail thought it put faces to some of the statistics by asking the public on the streets of the capital what their plans for Christmas were and how, if at all, the credit crunch has affected them or their loved ones.
Spending the days with his family and evening’s with his friends, 26-year-old Sakis Patikkis told the Mail that he was working with a reduced budget, spending less on presents.
“I haven’t really reduced my budget too much on going out because happiness and joy are in the moments we spend with friends and family and it’s important to fill our days with happy moments, regardless of the financial crisis,” he said.
Giannos Moditis, a 34-year-old musician said he would also be spending time with family and friends but said he believed the crisis has had more of a mental impact than a financial one.
“It has affected the way we think about Christmas, which in a way is positive because we are now concentrating more on how we spend time with our loved ones rather than what presents we will receive and what gifts we want,” he said.
Moditis, who has a 3-year-old son, told the Mail he doesn’t believe that young Panagiotis will notice that Christmas this year is different.
“You should see the amount of presents he’s getting, they hardly fit under the tree, but that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, putting a smile on the faces of children,” he said.
One man who will be jetting away on Boxing Day for business is self-employed computer specialist Dino P but not before Christmas Day with his family.
“I’ll be flying out to Hamburg for four days for work, then come back for New Years,” he said. He said he has definitely had to spend less on presents and other items this year due to the financial crisis.
“What I haven’t done this year is bother with buying stuff for anyone as people prefer cash gifts as it’s more useful during these difficult times,” he said.
For 39-year-old photographer and father of two, Antonis Farmakas, Christmas is very much a family affair and has been for the last 30 years.
“Of course the crisis has affected our plans for Christmas as we are buying less and cheaper presents, more often than not going for discounted options. We will also be staying at home more and not going out as much,” he said.
An avid football fan, Farmakas will be enjoying the Christmas period watching his beloved Arsenal on the TV, as they play three times in the space of a week.
“It was the late Bill Shankly who said, ‘Some say football is a matter of life and death – but I say it’s much more than that’,” he jokingly added.
Andreas Charalambous, a 33-year-old civil servant will be spending his Christmas holidays like every year, getting together with family, having dinner and playing cards.
“I won’t be going out at all really, as I haven’t gone out now in years during the Christmas period,” he said.
Civil servants were all informed earlier this month that their traditional end-of-year celebrations will have to be put on hold as they have been warned that organising celebrations during working hours should be avoided throughout the holiday season and Charalambous said this has definitely had an effect on morale.
“The crisis has had an effect on our personal and professional lives but we carry on regardless. You need to buy something for everyone but just not as expensive as in previous years, but as they say, it’s the thought that counts,” he said.
One of the lucky former Laiki Bank employees who has been re-assigned to the Bank of Cyprus after the two banks joined, Androulla Xenophontos, 29, told the Mail that she has to think twice before buying any presents.
“There will be less presents under the Christmas tree unfortunately this year and celebrations will be more modest unfortunately,” she said.
Xenophontos will not be changing her plans for Christmas, spending it in the company of family and friends, “like every year.”
Nikolas Kyriacou, a 39-year-old teacher will be spending his Christmas with family and said that the crisis has not particularly affected his plans this year.
“I will be spending this year like most years. The three Fs – friends, family and food. I did receive a 13th salary but it was less than previous years,” he said.
Bakery manager, Andreas Patsalides, told the Mail he will be spending as much time as possibly with his family and friends.
“I want to spend time with the people who really want to spend time with me. The crisis hasn’t affected me at all to be fair and I’ve even already spent my 13th salary on gifts and going out!” he said.
Father of one, 35-year-old insurance broker, Antonis Antoniou said that he will be spending as much time as possible over the holidays with his 2-year-old daughter.
“Most of our time will be spent with family, having fun despite the crisis. It has definitely had an effect on us as we have had to buy cheaper presents and limit how much we go out,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Angelos Anastasiou)