POLL: False start catches out keen shoppers

HUNDREDS of shoppers felt robbed yesterday after flocking to the traditional ‘‘Boxing Day sales’’ in the city’s mega retail centres only to discover that most outlets were shut.

The carparks of Westfield Kotara and GPT’s Charlestown Square centre began filling yesterday morning with customers keen to spend gift vouchers and cash in on the annual post-Christmas sales.

As is seasonal custom, and in accordance with NSW government’s restricted trading legislation on some public holidays, the two shopping centres shut down the majority of their outlets.

But consumers – including the elderly and parents who had travelled from afar with young children – still arrived en masse, causing widespread confusion and disappointment and extra work for security officers.

Some shoppers had seen advertisements placed yesterday  by David Jones which stated ‘‘sales start today’’. However, they failed to read the part that clarified that the department store’s clearance sale applied to its key Sydney stores and Tuggerah but excluded ‘‘Kotara and all other stores’’.

Other shoppers wrongly assumed the centres were open and, facing another day cooped up indoors thanks to the gloomy weather, sought retail therapy only to experience a shopping stand-off.  

And many were fuming. 

‘‘It’s un-Australian not to have a sale on Boxing Day,’’ said John Lennox, who drove from Medowie with wife Colleen and their toddler, Jack,  to Charlestown Square only to find it mostly shut, apart from a handful of outlets including Reading Cinema, TimeZone and food court eateries. 

‘‘We wanted to go to Myer and Target, you’d think the biggest stores would open.’’

The Lennox family were weighing up whether to drive another hour to Westfield Tuggerah, so too teenagers Marcus Van Egmond and Rosie Dallas, who arrived at Westfield Kotara to find the doors shut.   

After working long hours in their retail jobs in the lead-up to Christmas, the pair were disappointed not to be able to spend their hard-earned cash. ‘‘We both have one day off before going back to work and we just wanted to shop,’’ Ms Dallas said. 

Tania Newstead drove from Singleton to Westfield Kotara with her mother, Dianne Cooper, and daughters Jessica, 16, and Amy, 14. 

After finding the doors closed, the four  decided to drive on to Westfield Tuggerah. 

‘‘They’ve missed out on a profit. These people coming here won’t come back tomorrow, or we won’t,’’ said Mrs Newstead.

At Charlestown Square, TimeZone manager Catharine Tagg said her store was getting a lot more consumer traffic thanks to the confusion.

‘‘People who have come here [to find shops shut] are just thinking ‘OK, we’ve travelled this far so we’ll stay for a bit longer’,’’ she said.

Nearby Christina Chatziconstantinos and Marko Banjac said they had gone to Kotara to find it closed and driven to Charlestown hoping it was  open.

‘‘It’s a shock,’’ said Ms Chatziconstantinos, adding the pair were keen to exchange an item and browse.

Westfield Kotara centre manager Ryan Burns declined to comment on retail confusion but said the retailer’s trading hours were on its website and outlets were gearing up for a good trading day today. 

GPT spokesperson Tanny Mangos said Charlestown Square management had placed ‘‘very visible’’ signage on their festive trading hours. 

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