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Germany

Holly jolly Christmas for German retailers

Thanks to booming sales, this year's holiday season is the most cheerful in years for German retailers. If the trend of German shoppers continues, good business could continue after the holidays as well.

Money in a santa hat

Germans have spent about 77 billion euro on gifts

A lot of German kids are going to think Santa was especially generous this year when they open their Christmas presents. Even the adults are likely to notice a few more presents under the tree as in 2009. According to the German Retail Association, Germans haven't spent as much money on gifts during a holiday season since 2005.

Wrapped Christmas presents

There may be a few more gifts under German trees

For November and December, the association estimates total revenues of 77 billion euro ($101 billion) for the retail sector - 2.5 percent more than last year.

"People haven't let the chaotic winter ruin their shopping plans," Stefan Genth, head of the trade union HDE, told Deutsche Welle.

Genth says that the economic crisis in Germany was over surprisingly quickly. Germans saved money during the year in order to be able to afford something special for Christmas, such as a nice watch or jewelry.

At the top of many Christmas lists in snowy Germany are winter sports items, such as sleds, skis, or ice skates. Warm winter clothes are also in high demand. In many stores, supply of sleds and snow shovels is running low. The demand for gloves is sometimes twice what retailers have in stock.

iPads and inscriptions

If a Christmas wish is not snow-related, then there's a good chance it has to do with staying inside and avoiding it. Electronic devices, including video and computer games are sought-after items as well.

In an interview with the French news agency AFP, August-Wilhelm Scheer, head of the electronic branch's Bitkom association, said the electronic branch was "very satisfied" with their holiday business, and that it was "significantly better" than last year.

An iPad

iPads are in high demand

The high-tech gadget of the year is without a doubt the iPad. It and other tablet-PCs have established themselves as a new class among laptop computers. According to Bitkom, around 450,000 tablet-PCs were sold in 2010.

Sales for online retailers are experiencing a boom like never before as well. Many Germans want to give personalized gifts, but they don't always have the time to take care of it themselves. Instead, they take care of a special gift with a few clicks of the mouse.

Claudia Helming is the head of Dawanda, an online marketplace for handmade products that opened in 2006 in Berlin. She says customized jewelry, such as a silver necklace engraved with a name or a phrase, is quite popular. Dawanda gets about 30,000 orders per day - more than twice as many as last year.

Trend continues past Christmas

While some Germans go for the one-of-a-kind gifts, many others go completely generic.

A Christmas market

Snow and cold kept people out of Christmas markets

Recent studies indicate that every second present that will be opened on Christmas Eve is a gift certificate.

HDE's Stefan Genth says most of the gift certificates will be cashed in during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve, making him optimistic that the booming retail business in Germany will continue past the holidays. He also expects that many people will carry out planned shopping sprees that had to be put off because of bad weather.

While the retail sector seems to have come through Germany's early winter quite well, the opposite is true for businesses operating at Germany's Christmas markets. The exceptionally cold weather and snowfall meant that many people opted to stay home instead of patronizing the stalls of the Christmas market.

Unlike holiday shopping sprees, a trip to the Christmas market cannot be pushed back a few weeks: After December 23, the German Christmas markets close up shop until next year.

Author: Alexandra Scherle (mz, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Rob Turner

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