Prospects of a gloomy Christmas and new year holiday are looming large for most families in Zimbabwe with retailers already feeling the biting effects of lackluster festive spending owing to worsening economic conditions, 263Chat Business has established.
This will be yet another indifferent Christmas holiday for ordinary folks after last year and the year before which were hamstrung by cash and liquidity challenges.
A snap survey by this publication showed that contrary to somewhat generous festive season shopping, consumer appetite to spend this year is at its lowest in recent years.
Clothing retail outlets have been the worst hit, as consumers cannot cope with the prices in stores while food retail is experiencing some activity albeit subdued comparative to yester years.
"I am not worried about Christmas anymore, I last enjoyed Christmas in 2016. We are currently struggling for an ordinary meal yet you talk of a Christmas feast with extended family. It's not possible this time," says one shopper who identified himself as Chris.
"My salary has been reduced to peanuts yet prices are going up on a weekly basis," he added.
Inflation has sprung beyond 500 percent, the highest since 2008, as exchange rate volatility continues to pose further currency depreciations.
Most companies have struggled to sustain operations as product uptake has been generally weaker hence majority of workers failed to get their thirteenth check in November.
For civil servants who did get their bonuses, the value in real term has been weakened as market prices continue to be indexed with the American dollar.
"We are seeing e general slowdown in terms of spending from our customers as you are aware of the price adjustments that are taking place in the market," Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZR) president, Denford Mutashu said in an interview.
"Most Zimbabweans are faced with competing needs come January as you know school fees have also gone up. So all this adds onto how consumers will spend this festive season," added Mutashu.
Parents are still digesting the proposed school fees for next year which has seen on average boarding school charging ZWL$ 12 000 for first term with private institutions like Falcon in Esigodini reportedly proposing ZWL$ 70 000 or equivalent of US$ 3 000.
However, in the wake of high pricing in the domestic market, some are shopping from neighboring countries such as Botswana, Mozambique and South Africa.
"We notice that there are a lot of products coming from South Africa and other neighboring countries which are not being sold through formal retailers. This varies, case by case but we know this demands availability of foreign currency which already in short supply," Mutashu said.
Christmas in Zimbabwe is largely characterized by travelling to the countryside for festivities with the extended family.
However, fuel unavailability and its exorbitant cost are likely to spoil travelers.
Analysts are also skeptical of the rampant speculation in the market which they predict is likely to charge prices on selected items as Christmas draws even closer.
With signs of a tough start to year 2020 already marked on the wall, consumers are spending less this festive season hoping for a soft landing come New Year in the process affecting the general business outlook of the country.