Sales across supermarkets have matched pre-pandemic levels this Christmas, largely driven by special offers which lure in customers, but retailers in other areas said consumer spending had been disappointing.

Executive secretary of the supermarkets’ association Andreas Hadjiadamou told CNA on Saturday that sales exceeded expectations and “were at satisfactory levels, reminiscent of 2019”.

On the last day of the year, consumers were rushing to supermarkets to do last minute shopping, and Hadjiadamou said that after two years of Covid-19 restrictions, people have missed sitting around with loved ones and are going out to shop with their families.

But the small shopkeepers’ association (Povek) general secretary Stefanos Koursaris told CNA market traffic in other areas was below expectations.

“Perhaps the weather played a role. People were contained, there’s an overall uncertainty and people stuck to the absolute necessary.”

He observed the public did spend money on the Christmas and New Year meals but less so on gifts.

“When we have inflation at around 10 per cent in the last six to eight months, this negatively affects consumers’ psychology,” Koursaris added.

He highlighted that shopkeepers will now move to add special offers after the new year, to cover some lost ground, but the problems remain and uncertainty still reigns.

The situation is even tougher on smaller shops with Povek calling on the government to take measures to support them. “Small shops cannot endure these conditions. They don’t have the capital for advertising. The state needs to come in and help.”

One suggestion would be tax relief for small businesses and self-employed persons, he added.

According to head of the consumers’ association Marios Droushiotis, complaints have increased with 700 written complaints compared to 350 in 2021, but “there were a lot more complaints made over the phone.”

Many complaints consumers filed concern practices over gift returns, with consumers frustrated that some stores were not allowing exchanges or refunds, Droushiotis said.

The increase has less to do with an increase in questionable practices and more to do with the fact that consumers are tighter with money due to the tougher financial circumstances, he said.

“Educated consumers in combination with how expensive things are getting and tighter money worked in favour of consumers,” in them fighting for their rights.

Droushiotis added the cost of a Christmas meal was around 10 per cent up compared to last year. Though meat prices went up by 20 to 25 per cent, this was compensated to an extent by the low prices of fruits and vegetables, which have decreased.

“We were buying a field cucumber for 60 to 80 cents, while a greenhouse one was less than 50 cents. This has never happened before. Tomatoes were almost half price compared to previous holiday periods.”