FOR the patient shoppers who clutched their purses sensibly while the rush for Christmas gifts and goodies was on, rewards come in multiple offerings of fat discounts in the aftermath of the festive madness. Especially those shoppers in the market for new shoes, jewellery, perfume and beauty products will find an abundance to choose from. Many of South Africa’s leading store chains have announced big sales in the first few days of this year, either to off-load summer season stock in preparation for winter season stock purchases or selling off excess product left due to slack festive season sales. Truworths was offering discounts of 10% to 25% at Gateway yesterday, while the Brazilia Designer Shoe Outlet in the mall was offering some shoes priced up to 60% lower than retail. Woolworths was offering up to 30% off on selected footwear, fashion and accessories, while Clicks was offering between 30% and 50% off gift sets and body and bath products. Home products store @Home had knocked down prices by up to 50%, while jewellery store NWJ has cut prices by as much as 60% on some items. The festive season is usually the strongest trading period for retailers, but sales growth was anticipated to be a bit subdued this year as consumers are struggling with high debts, falling real disposable incomes and rising costs, such as for petrol and electricity. “There is nothing to be alarmed about, but there’s not likely to be much to celebrate either,” said Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart when questioned about likely festive season shopping sales growth this year. He said there were also “not a lot of signs to show that sales will pick up much this year either”, notwithstanding the fact that there will always be “winners” and “losers” among retailers, depending on their business model. Retail sector sales growth statistics for October, the last time official data for the sector was compiled, came in below the expectations of most economists at only 1,3% year on year. An Ernst & Young and Stellenbosch University Bureau of Economic Research survey just before the festive period showed that shop owners in KwaZulu-Natal have certainly been feeling the pinch of subdued consumer spending. For instance, the survey found that retailers in the province were generally more negative about sales prospects than the rest of the country. Only 12% were satisfied with business conditions versus an average of 40% nationally, while profitability among retailers in the province was reported to be under more pressure than in the rest of the country.