Swiss Christmas gift budget shows economic confidence

Swiss people will spend more on Christmas presents this year as confidence in the economy rises, according to a survey.

Swiss Christmas gift budget shows economic confidence
File photo: Alan Cleaver

Ernst & Young’s annual survey of 500 Swiss Christmas shoppers found that the average budget for Christmas presents had risen to 294 francs, up seven percent on last year.

More than half (55 percent) intend to spend more than 200 francs on gifts, also an increase on last year.

Last year's edition of the survey showed Swiss shoppers were tightening their purse strings as Christmas gift budgets reduced by an average of five percent, over fears for the economy.

However in the past year the Swiss economy has experienced a moderate recovery, despite ongoing uncertainties related to Brexit and other world events, and this has had a positive effect on shoppers, said Ernst & Young in a statement.

“The Brexit decision, for example, hasn’t affected the financial markets and economy as much as was feared,” said Ernst & Young consumer expert Martin Gröli.

“Many Swiss consumers are confident and expect a lasting economic recovery,” he added.

However spending habits vary across the country.

While shoppers in five out of seven regions in Switzerland plan to increase their Christmas gift budget this year, those in the Lake Geneva area and in eastern Switzerland are intending to spend slightly less.

People with children intend to spend 331 francs, ten percent up on last year and the biggest budget of all demographics. However the over 66s have increased their spending the most, with a budget that is 18 percent higher than in 2015.

When it comes to choosing presents, half of Swiss shoppers prove unimaginative by giving gift vouchers or cash presents.

Books and e-books remain popular, but shoppers intend to spend 18 percent less on them than last year, found the survey.

Specialist shops are still the most popular places for picking up gifts, while only 17 percent of purchases are likely to be made online.

“Christmas sales are traditionally associated with walking about town and shoppers go to specialist shops with a precise idea for a present and ask for specific advice,” says Gröli.

“This experience is unique and cannot be compared to general shopping behaviour.”

The majority of shoppers will buy their presents in Switzerland, though 31 percent of those surveyed stated they would head abroad to buy Christmas gifts.

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Which Swiss Christmas markets are opening in November?

The leaves haven’t totally fallen off the trees across Switzerland yet, but Christmas markets in some areas are already setting up their stalls. Where can you eat, drink, and be merry starting this week?

Which Swiss Christmas markets are opening in November?

Even though it’s still officially autumn in Switzerland, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, as the song says.

Towns big and small are preparing to celebrate the holiday season in — so far, at least — a pandemic-free environment. In fact, the festive mood makes it easy to forget that in 2020 markets were closed, and in 2021 some places required a Covid certificate to enter.

While most markets in Switzerland will open at the beginning of December to coincide with the start of the Advent on December 1st, some will be inaugurated this week and next.

This is an overview of where you can begin the Christmas season in November.

Lausanne, ‘Bô Noël’

Starting on Thursday November 17th, the Vaud capital will inaugurate small Christmas markets in various locations throughout the city:

  • Place Saint-François
  • Place Pépine
  • Arches du Grand-pont et place de l’Europe
  • Terrasse Jean-Monnet
  • Place Centrale
  • Esplanade de la Cathédrale
  • Esplanade du Flon

Various activities from Christmas shopping to eating, drinking, and entertainment for the young and old will be plentiful at all the sites.

Open: From November 17th to December 31st

Geneva, Jardin Anglais

The traditional market, located in the middle of a lakeside urban park, is opening on November 18th.

Like any Christmas market worthy of the name, it will feature an artisan market where you can purchase holiday decorations and other trinkets, as well as enjoy typical fare like mulled wine and raclette. (Christmas purists may argue that melted cheese is not really a ‘typical’ holiday dish, but you are, after all, in Switzerland).

Open: from November 18th to December 23rd

Geneva, Noël du Mont-Blanc

As a complement to the Jardin Anglais site, Geneva’s second Christmas market, on rue du Mont-Blanc, will open on November 24th.

As each year, it will feature a wide range of artisanal products and local specialities.

Open from November 25th to December 28th

A lit statue  ‘floats’ over a Geneva street at Christmas. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Montreux (Vaud)

Scenically located along the shore of Lake Geneva, the “Montreux Noel” market is one of the country’s most famous Christmas fairs.

Attractions include Santa Claus / Father Christmas flying on his sled, as well as special activities inside the legendary Chillon Castle, located just a snowball away from the cite centre.

Open from November 18th to December 24th

Basel: Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz

Spread across two squares, Basel’s annual Christmas market – open from November 24th – is one of Switzerland’s largest and most picturesque.

About 200 booths offer an array of things traditionally associated with this holiday, from exquisite hand-made ornaments to regional delicacies.

Open from November 24th to December 23th.

Basel’s Old Town decorated with Christmas lights. Image by Christophe Schindler from Pixabay 

Zurich, several markets

Switzerland’s largest city has not one, not two, but FIVE Christmas fairs spread around town, all opening on November 24th: at Sechseläutenplatz, Old Town, Bahnhof, Münsterhof, and Werdmühleplatz.

They include attractions like a singing Christmas tree, one decorated with 7,000 crystals, along with gifts, decorations, food, and drink.

 Open: November 24th to December 23rd.