The recent holiday season saw shoppers in Estonia making more sensible purchases in line with economic realities – though surprisingly, sales of the ever-present Christmas gift, socks, were down on year.
At the same time, ERR reports, some supermarket chains reported record turnovers for December, though this was mostly driven by higher prices which the soaring inflation in 2022 led to, and traders are also concerned about what January will bring.
Head of business accounting at supermarket Selver, Kristjan Anderson, said the store saw a higher number of customers on Boxing Day and January 1 than usual.
New Year's Day retail turnover, while not comparable with that on the "last day before Christmas", December 23, still set a record level.
While this alleviated some fears about the holiday period given the current economic situation, Anderson noted that revenue growth is something of a false dawn when its main driving factor is inflation.
There is no prospect of food prices falling in the near future, he added.
Anderson said that: "During the holidays, Estonians still pulled themselves together and set the table with gritted teeth. We are more worried about January, and will wait and see may come from there."
As to what people bought, Anderson said: "If you take a look at the results, the major [Christmas] trends remained in place: Tangerines were the most purchased fruit, but at a volume a little lower than last year, while the price was also about 40 cents higher."
At Rimi, purchasing manager Talis Raak agreed that tangerines, mandarins etc. were at the top of the sales list in their chain's stores, as usual for the season, while there were no major changes compared with previous Christmases.
"If we want to highlight something, poultry meat found its way into the shopping cart slightly more, while fish was chosen less. Refrigerated and frozen duck is, for example, a product whose popularity among Rimi customers has grown year-on-year," Raak said.
While traditional Christmas staples like clothes, and the perennial socks, were down, Selver says it sold 30 percent more makeup products, with lipstick sales doubling and even hair dye being bought more – in the latter case this may reflect greater gaps between trips to the hairdressers, than before, Anderson said.
Games and toys also sold more, by a third, than the previous Christmas, while book sales were relatively unchanged.
Fresh fish sales were down 15 percent, though deep-frozen fish rose by around the same percentage, Talis Raak said, adding that more oddly, off-season blueberries and strawberries sold more, whereas apples sold less.
Sales of vegetables and confectionery remained more modest, while meat products were sold more – the traditional Christmas pork remained in shopping baskets, along with pate, black pudding (verivorst – blood sausage, in other words).
Increased sales of caviar, canned soups and fast food/pre-prepared meals were other surprises, Anderson added.
Customers also made smart purchases in picking discounted and promoted products, which made up over 50 percent of shopping baskets this year, Anderson added.
Raak agreed: "If we leave specific products aside, compared with previous years, the content of this year's shopping baskets were largely determined by the price. People were looking for more discounted products."
Other items which increased in sales also reflect the season, though in a less welcome way – cough syrups and other remedies for colds sold more than the previous year, by about a quarter.
Editor: Andrew Whyte