Cool yule hits Australian retailers

Tuesday 20th Dec 2011 by theWeather Club

Image: John Lindie

For those of us resident in Blighty, most of the things that we associate with Christmas are cold specific. In fact is difficult to think of something 'Christmassy' without it bringing a shiver – albeit a pleasurable one – to our spines. But of course this is not the case in all of the far flung corners of the world where Christmas is celebrated. For Australians the Christmas season is associated with long days on the beach, sizzling barbies , and downright unnecessary Santa hats. It is also associated with the buying of new beach wear to look their best on the beachfront, at least until the liquid refreshments begin to take their toll.

However this year it is looking a bit different. While we in Britain are looking at an unseasonably warm Christmas with double digit temperatures leading into the Christmas weekend, Australians are experiencing the precise opposite, with cool damp conditions holding sway. All of which is bad news for their summer clothing industry. "Clothing retailers are still doing it fairly tough out there," Russell Zimmerman a spokesman, for The Australian Retailers Association explained. "The weather has been too cold for them – they need that really good run of hot weather and they haven't seen it."

The rain and cold, blamed on the La Nina weather cycle, has affected much of Australia's eastern seaboard. Two weeks ago, the city of Brisbane recorded its coldest December day for 123 years, while Sydney has seen some of its coldest December days since 1960.

It is a situation that is beginning to have real consequences. The unseasonably damp cool conditions have been blamed for a slump in Christmas shopping and especially big falls in sales of clothing and shoes. Several clothing and department store chains have cut prices and even closed stores. Shares in surf wear company Billabong hit a record low after the company reported that its profit could fall by as much as 26%. Billabong said today its sales had been 'significantly affected' and that the poor weather's persistence into December has been reflected in store sales declines.

In a drastic attempt to attract trade many stores have heavily discounted swimwear and summer clothing, with the big department store chain David Jones dropping prices by 30%. "If it was a hot summer people would have been buying bikinis," the chain's corporate affairs manager, Helen Karlis, told reporters. "It's the coldest summer we've had in 50 years."

So while this year's Aussie Christmas is still unlikely to feature snow shoes and overcoats, those Santa hats might prove not to be so unnecessary after all.