By Rory Reynolds
STUNNED staff at one of Scotland’s most famous department stores watched on in amazement as customers crawled under security barriers to raid a newly stocked Christmas department.
More than a dozen people simply could not wait to get their hands on the festive stock at Edinburgh department store Jenners in Edinburgh – despite there still being three months to go until Christmas.
Staff had to tell the customers to go back to the main store area and leave their baubles alone after the surprise raid on Friday.
The excited mob had descended on the closed area and grabbed shiny baubles, luxury crackers, coloured tinsel and board games, some of which is only on display until sales start in December.
Shocked Sue Farrer, sales manager at Jenners, said she was gobsmacked by how keen people were to get their hands on the Christmas goods.She said: “They were crawling underneath the barriers or moving them aside while we were setting up.
“Some were leaning over to take stock off the tables – it was like the first day of the sales.
“There were people of all ages, from young couples to pensioners, all keen to get the items.
“We have had people saying it’s too early for Christmas – but by Sunday we had to restock the shelves.”
“It’s never too early for Christmas.
“It makes people happy and after the many downers of this year, I think people will make a lot of their celebrations in 2009.”
Industry experts said the behaviour suggested this coming festive season will be good for retail in Scotland.
And that will come as a relief to traders who said that last year was the worst for the retail industry in 14 years, despite shops beginning sales well before the usual January shopping period.
Krishnan Rama from the Scottish Retail Consortium said: “If there was no demand, the retailers would not be doing this.
“Shoppers seen to want to spread the cost of Christmas over a longer period this year and that is why there is such a demand.
“People are still being very cautious with their spending though, owing to uncertainty about jobs.”
Michael McGrath, director of the Scottish Catholic Church’s Education Service however hit out at stores that he says are trying to lure people in already.
“It is unfortunate that the Christmas shopping frenzy appears to have started already for some people.
“Such behaviour reminds us that, for too many, Christmas is only a commercial enterprise and that many have forgotten the religious significance of the celebration of the Birth of Jesus as a time of peace, joy and goodwill.”
However, Graham Birse, chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber welcomed the rush at Jenners.
He said: “I think that the Christmas appetite appears to have started early.
“We do have quite a special atmosphere in Edinburgh over Christmas, with the events, lights, street markets and everything and all against the backdrop of a beautiful Georgian and Medieval city.
“You don’t get that at an out of town mall.
“Jenners and the traditional city centre retailers are clearly going to do something special this year.
“The fact that there is desire and demand to break down barriers to get there is a good sign – as long as no one gets hurt.”