This Christmas season, the noose around pocket strings has become incredibly tight as inflation soars and prices skyrocket. Though special offers appear to be some sort of saving grace, it appears the Christmas table and gift giving will be a far more conservative affair this year.
Supermarkets, retailers and consumers the Sunday Mail spoke to, say they are feeling the effects, with businesses seeing far less money being spent.
“There is a huge cost increase. Prices have changed two or three times since last year. This has largely affected how consumers spend. Their purchasing power has fallen and they are focused on offers, private label and buying what’s strictly necessary,” purchasing manager at Papantoniou supermarkets Theodoros Nicolaides told the Sunday Mail.
“Demand for absolutely necessary products may not be largely affected though consumers have second thoughts over the quantities they buy. For instance, instead of buying two or three confectionary items or packets of biscuits, they might limit it to one.
“Dry nuts, which are a nice addition to wine, are no longer considered necessary.”
Nicolaides adds that the price hikes are also likely to affect how many people sit around the dinner table this year. This may have been in part affected by the Covid 19 pandemic but the bigger bills also play a key role.
Meanwhile owner of PSL shoes in Nicosia Nicos Triantafyllou said this is the worst year he’s had for business since he opened in 2001.
“Christmas used to bring a quarter of the year’s turnover,” he said. “This year, it’s just like any other month.”
Though there are people coming into the store to look around, they are far more careful when it comes to spending. “They go straight to the offers, they bargain, it’s all very different now and there’s little I can do.
“With the increased fuel costs, electricity prices and food products, people have no money left.”
According to head of the consumers association Marios Droushiotis, with inflation at around eight per cent and no increase in wages, reduced spending is to be expected.
For example, though everyone will try to have meat on the Christmas table, not everyone can afford lamb souvla. “Instead of paying for lamb, they will get pork or chicken at half the price.”
With meat prices up, a basket of 35 items for family of four is going to cost €166 for a Christmas meal. The same sized family on a budget will spend about €92 on 19 items.
“Rather than have two brands of beer on the table, people may limit themselves to one.”
Droushiotis finds there is already an observed drop in spending on clothes and shoes. “Where people used to change clothes every seven to eight months, this might change to every two or three years.”
However executive secretary of the supermarket association Andreas Hadjiadamou was not so pessimistic about the holidays. “Cypriots may restrict themselves for a lot of things but not for the Christmas table,” he said.
But it is special offers that are helping some people get through.
Pambos Charalambous, 66, said he only buys what’s on offer but even that is “so much more expensive. Limiting the things we buy has become normal. We have no money to buy more things.
“It’s too much. I used to grab cheese and yogurt off the shelf without thinking. The prices now make me think not just twice but debate for a long time.”
Christina Ioannou, 30 puts it bluntly: “no money, no honey. I’m barely getting by with rent and bills, any extra expense puts a strain on me that I simply don’t want and can’t handle.”
For Yianna O’Brien, 61, the sentimental value has taken precedence over the finances, though she describes the spending as falling into the category of “how long is a piece of string, stopping short of hocking the family heirlooms.”
“Since this is the first Christmas in 10 years that all of us in my family will be in the same country, I have gone all out and spent my 13th salary before I even got it.”
Sentimental value also carries weight for Evangelia Athanasiou, 26, who says she spends more on presents and less on food while trying to keep it local.
“Over the last few years, I prefer to buy presents from charity events or fairs by local artists, I found that often you discover the most incredible and unique items this way. Of course, this is a lot more costly and time consuming shopping process. I compensate by buying a lot less Christmas chocolates and fancy foods.”
Gift exchanges for Marko Ljubicic, 37, however are an indication of how Christmas “is a capitalist, consumerist ploy. Pretty much the moment Halloween is over, we as a society are bombarded by flashing lights and endless Christmas jingles set on ‘repeat’.
“Focus has shifted entirely to gift-giving. Gift-exchanges prioritise materialism over sentimentality. Giving a grand, expensive gift is seen as how much you care about the other person – despite the fact that sentimental and thoughtful gifts more accurately represent how well you know someone; regardless of how much you spent.
“We are encouraged to outperform one another: each year must be newer, shinier, bigger, and there must be more of it!