Will it be a merry Christmas for small retailers?

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Date: 2 November 2021

A smiling woman decorates a Christmas tree

Over one-third of shoppers plan to start their shopping earlier this year according to a new survey, but the results also show that attitudes to spending are shifting and retailers will need to adapt if they want to have a profitable festive season.

A new poll of shoppers has found that attitudes to Christmas shopping are changing. A survey by market research consultancy Hall and Partners in collaboration with data specialist Dynata has found that almost one in five consumers (18%) say they want to escape Christmas excess, spend less and live more sustainably. These shoppers say that expensive gift buying is "unnecessary and over-indulgent" and it goes against their desire to live more sustainably.

Even so, nearly half of consumers (47%) polled said they will be spending the same as in previous years, with 10% intending to spend more this year (7% a little more and 3% a lot more). However, one in four shoppers are concerned about rising prices, with 24% of those surveyed saying they are worried about the cost of Christmas increasing.

The findings come as many retailers and brands are kicking off the festive season earlier than ever in an attempt to recoup lost earnings because of the pandemic and to stay ahead of any further potential lockdowns or supply chain issues.

Supply chain worries and rising prices may also be the reason that one-third of shoppers are starting their Christmas shopping early. Small local retailers could well see an uplift in sales this year, with 23% of shoppers saying they will support local businesses this year.

However, small retailers may well have to up their game when it comes to ecommerce as a new study by Iterable shows that more of us than ever will be doing our Christmas shopping online this year.

The poll of 1,000 UK consumers found that:

  • 86% of UK consumers plan to do at least half their Christmas shopping online this year;
  • Just 14% plan to complete all or most of their Christmas shopping in-store;
  • 45% of UK consumers plan to shop more online this holiday season than in previous years;
  • 51% of UK shoppers plan to spend more on gifts this season than previous years.

The findings also suggest that the pandemic has had a significant impact on shopping habits and attitudes. Iterable found that 56% of UK consumers say that COVID-19 is having a negative impact on their attitudes towards Christmas shopping and 42% say COVID-19 is the reason behind their decision to shop online more compared to previous years.

Elle Nadal, director of marketing, EMEA, at Iterable, said: "The pandemic has created a new status quo in retail, with customers far more willing to browse online than on the high street. Brands need to adjust to this new reality, building memorable, consistent experiences for customers wherever they choose to shop."

However, Nadal added: "Shopping preferences and plans are constantly changing, and consumers confronted with supply chain disturbances will likely plan on making some last-minute purchases in-person. An omni-channel experience that marries the unique appeal of in-person retail with the convenience of online shopping will win over customers not just for the Christmas period but long into 2022 and beyond."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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