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Swiss unenthusiastic about Christmas shopping

Swiss shoppers focus more on quality and expert service

(Ex-press)

Only three in every 100 Swiss are in the Christmas shopping mood, but the nation will still spend some SFr5.6 billion ($4.98 billion) on the festive season this year.

The lack of enthusiasm about tackling crowded department stores is worse than the European average and many shoppers will turn to websites for gifts, an international survey shows.

However, the Swiss are not concerned about parting with their money, particularly in the German-speaking regions of the country. Only a third of those surveyed complained of a loss of purchasing power, but this proportion is higher among French speakers.

Some SFr2.6 billion will be spent of gifts this year in Switzerland, SFr2 billion on food and drinks and a further SFr1 billion on partying, the report from international consultancy firm Deloitte & Touche revealed.

Around a third of German speakers will avoid the crowds by using the internet, compared with a fifth in the French-speaking region of the country.

Karen Frick of the consumer research group Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute is not surprised that the Swiss shun busy shopping streets at Christmas.

"We find that what people really hate is when shops get really crowded," she told swissinfo. "Older people in particular do not want to be jostled when they are shopping."

Swiss shoppers place less emphasis on price discounts and look more to quality and expert service from retail staff. Two-thirds are prepared to pay more for "ethical" items that do not exploit labour or harm the environment.

Ethical considerations

The recent safety scare over children's toys manufactured in China has played a role, according to Deloitte's director of consumer business, Julius Hill.

"Consumers are very aware of where products come from, how they are made and what they contain," he said. "Products which are made in Europe or even in Switzerland are likely to be more popular this year."

Karen Frick agrees that stores have to pay more attention than ever to what type of products they stock.

"There is a new understanding of quality and social and environmental sustainability are now part of this. People look at where the item has been produced and also if it is handmade, personalised or promotes the local handicraft of a particular region," she said.

The Deloitte survey found that traditional Christmas gifts such as books, music, perfumes and beauty products would continue to be popular this year. However, these products are facing increasing competition from high-tech gadgets like mobile telephones and MP3 players.

Games consoles will be among the top gifts in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, in common with most of Europe.

German speakers are more likely to opt for money and gift vouchers to pop into stockings.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen

In brief

The Deloitte report compared shopping attitudes in 15 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa plus the United States, surveying 32,000 people.

Switzerland was added to the sample country list for the first time in 2007, making comparisons with previous years impossible.

The main reasons for people disliking Christmas shopping were crowds and a lack of innovative gift ideas. Some 37% of Swiss rely on the advice of salespeople before making their choice.

Fewer Swiss save money for the festive shopping season than their counterparts in other European countries. Britain, Ireland and Spain lead the list of countries that spend the most at Christmas.

The survey also found that 80% of Swiss planned to spend Christmas with their families.

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