Oxford Street businesses have reported mixed levels of business activity in the usually busy pre-Mardi Gras shopping period.

Store managers who spoke to Sydney Star Observer yesterday said that they had been anticipating a relatively quiet Mardi Gras season, but some results had proved encouraging.

Ken Holmes from the Aussie Bodies store said that this week’s takings would likely be 30 percent down on the same time last year.

There’s no oomph on the street, and when people are shopping they’re not buying in big quantities, he said.

Ray Gibson from Mephisto Leather said, The Mardi Gras vibe is very late coming.

Gibson said he had been concerned about low business activity until last Friday, but reported that business was flying along this week.

Graeme Aitken from The Bookshop Darlinghurst said last year’s Mardi Gras season had been quieter than usual and a similar result had been anticipated for 2002 but the results had proved to be better than expected.

Meanwhile, Robert Tait from The Pop Shop and Robert and Angelo stores said that he was quietly confident that retail figures would match last year’s, or slightly improve.

All four retailers reported that Saturday’s Shop Yourself Stupid event seemed a bit quieter than previous years.

Tait said Saturday featured more people but less buying, while Aitken reported that Shop Yourself Stupid was quieter than we were expecting.

Gibson suggested that the expansion of the Shop Yourself Stupid event into areas like Marrickville and Leichhardt meant that there was less incentive for shoppers to spend the day on Oxford Street.

Drag performer Portia Turbo had a similar perspective on the day, saying that fewer hotels seemed to get into the spirit of the event by putting up stages and providing entertainment.

It wasn’t as big this year, she told the Star. People seem to have forgotten about what a great day it used to be.

The acting executive director of the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation, Crispin Rice, described the day as a fantastically successful event. Although takings from the day had not been fully counted, he said that the figures from the partial count seemed good. However, several sources confirmed to the Star that takings were well down on previous years.

Rice countered the suggestion that the Shop Yourself Stupid event had become too diffuse, saying that as ever, Oxford Street had a fantastic focus, with the annual Miss BGF pageant at Taylor Square. (This year’s pageant was won by Sheila Blige.) Shop Yourself Stupid at Newtown had also been a success with the staging of a busking competition, he said. Next year we hope to go out even further forward, Rice said.

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