The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Good Holiday Business At the Coast

PEOPLE were not afraid to spend money this past holiday season, and Swakopmund businesses say their turnover was better than in previous years.

Peter Brinkmann of OTB Sports, with branches in Swakopmund and Walvis Bay, said business had definitely picked up from previous years, and while ascribing this to the shop expanding its space and product options, he also said that "more people spent more money" this time.

"We attracted the holiday crowd, whether locals or visitors, and a wide variety of summer merchandise, especially clothes like T-shirts, shorts, sandals and costumes, were sold," he said.

Other hot products were sunglasses and "sea toys" like goggles, flippers and boogie-boards.

"I'm very happy with the outcome and also very optimistic about future business," he said.

Detlef Rix of Toy Box in Swakopmund said that this was an "extremely good year" for him, but ascribed this to having moved the shop into Swakopmund's CBD for better visibility.

According to him, there were many more people coming into the shop and buying something.

"The kids would buy something just because they were in a toy shop. And what child can resist a nice toy, while their parents brought the bigger things to wrap up for Christmas," said Rix.

"Girly" toys and accessories and racetracks for boys - as well as a huge variety of gimmicks - were some of the best sellers. In fact, his stock of Barbie dolls has been exhausted and he has to re-order.

"I must say about 60 percent of the clients were from outside Swakopmund. Swakopmunders are smart; they usually buy their gifts a month or so before the time to avoid the rush," he said.

For camping and fishing gear, Cymot is where many people go to get what they need, but according to Manfred Laborn, business was "no fireworks". He ascribed this to the fact that commodity and fuel prices have climbed drastically, leaving little for bigger purchases.

"The current economic climate globally has an impact on the festive season, and people are more careful, keeping their budgets tight just for the basics. The time of people buying large quantities of expensive goods for the holidays is something of the past," he said.

He added that over the years, holidaymakers have also kept their things and are already fitted out for camping and fishing instead of buying new merchandise.

"It was noticeable that most of the clients were from South Africa, but in general, people compromised on their spending. The value amounts on invoices was lower this past season for all our branches at the coast," said Laborn.

Popular products were wind-nets and umbrellas, coolboxes and fishing gear - "stuff just to make my day on the beach more comfortable".

Eating and partying attracted tens of thousands of people, said Quinton Liebenberg of the Lighthouse Group in Swakopmund, who owns some of the most popular restaurants, bistros and pubs at the coast. In fact, at the Tiger Reef beach bar and family venue, over 26 000 people walked through the doors.

"Rough estimates are that we had a 25 to 30 percent increase in customers, but it was quick. The holiday started and ended quicker," he said.

According to him, it seemed that people this time around were not afraid to spend money, and also that there were no complaints about his prices.

"It was not a good year all around with the economy, so people postponed their visits to the coast for the summer holiday. In the past, we had more visitors during the year, like over long weekends. It's as if they saved their money to spoil themselves over the holidays," Liebenberg speculated.

A quality meal is always in demand, but alcohol sales did go down. There was also no doubt that holidaymakers wanted good entertainment because of a lack of "good clubs" in town. This proved to be true considering the huge successes of the various parties held at the Tiger Reef.

Liebenberg said his clientele was a 50/50 mix of locals and visitors (mostly from South Africa).

"I am very optimistic about the year ahead," he said.

As for grocery shopping, Albie Coetzee, operations manager for Woermann Brock supermarkets at the coast, said that this year was better.

"There were more people, but they did spend less. It was a short season, with a sharp peak. In the past it was more evened out," he explained.

According to him, gifts, "non-foods" and outdoor equipment sold well, but in general people were more careful to spend, trying to stretch their budgets.

"One has to consider the economy. Fuel is expensive, and instead of staying in lodges and bed-and-breakfasts, people camped. Instead of having three meals a day, they would have two. This seemed apparent this year," said Coetzee.

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