Business & Economy

Three Kings Day buying in Mexico only at 50 pct. due to pandemic

By Miquel Muñoz

Mexico City, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- Traditional buying on Three Kings Day this year will be down by about 50 percent in Mexico due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit Mexicans’ buying power very hard and forced the closure of non-essential businesses in important consumer economic centers like the capital.

The Confederation of National Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (Concanaco) calculates that Three Kings sales nationwide will amount to some 8.7 billion pesos ($437 million), while last year they totaled 17.55 billion pesos ($892 million).

January 5 is the “high season” for the union of toymakers that in this pandemic has experienced “darks and lights,” the president of the Mexican Toy Industry Association (Amiju), Miguel Angel Martin, told EFE.

“Economic power has been affected, there are other needs of greater priority. However, it’s part of our culture. It’s not something invented today, five or 20 years ago from consumerism,” he said regarding gift-giving on Three Kings Day, Jan. 6, otherwise known as Epiphany.

However, the Concanaco numbers predict a dropoff in sales of almost 50 percent on the holiday because families have lost income and non-essential stores and businesses in a number of states have closed, whereas in recent years buying for Three Kings Day had been rising by 2.5-3.0 percent per year.

Toymakers expect to close the year with losses of about 15 percent compared with 2019, far from the 38 percent deficit that they had accumulated by last October, an improvement spurred above all by the Christmas and weekend promotions.

“Everything seems to point to the fact that at the end of the year we’re going to have a loss of about 15 percent. This is $2.8 billion that we made last year, and we’ll be getting something like $2.3 billion to $2.35 billion this year, probably,” Martin said.

Despite the shutdown in activities, some toy points of sale like the capital’s Sonora Market continue to operate with the permission of local authorities, but at a “very weak” pace.

“Honestly, (the season) is catastrophic,” shopkeeper Estela Saucedo told EFE, adding that “The Kings have been difficult, whether monetarily or because people can’t go out and about.”

Saucedo calculated that her sales for Jan. 5 have fallen of by “about 70 percent” and that for many families “either they don’t have the Kings, or it will be very minimal or they’ll hold it later.”

Shops like hers have been heavily affected by the mobility restrictions imposed in a country that has suffered more than 1.45 Covid-19 cases and almost 128,000 deaths during the pandemic.

The same thing is happening to Rosario Estrada, the daughter of a founder of Sonora Market, who estimated that she’s selling “at about 25 percent of the normal rate” for this period in early January.

“It’s going slowly, but we’re moving forward,” she said, encouraged a bit by being able to open now “from Monday through Sunday” after having had to close her doors for four months, from March through June.

“We’ve been hard hit. The crisis has hit us like everyone, but the important thing is that we’re moving out of it. Most people are being able to get through this pandemic and get out of this year alive,” said the Amiju president after agreeing that “the traditional sales channels and moving products were affected” by the closure of businesses.

The only sales sector that has benefited from the health lockdown has been the digital area, since Internet sales “had a really disproportionate growth” of 12 percent, quite a bit above the sector’s expectations.

“We sold six pesos of every 100 online last year. And this year it’s up at 18. … We had growth that we had only expected over the next four or five years,” said Martin about online sales.

Despite the difficulties, the toymaker said that Mexican children will not be forced to go without gifts on the traditional gift exchange date, an “historic tradition” in Mexico.

“You can take a child anything from a ball for 5 pesos to a toy for thousands, everything depends on your buying power,” he emphasized.

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