What's to come for consumer confidence in retail this Christmas?

  • Written by Laura Wheatley
  • Published on 19 December 2017
  • Our Voice

With many Christmas traditions slipping away (does anyone ever give apples and oranges as presents anymore?) is Christmas shopping breathing its dying breath?

For decades Christmas had been preceded by weeks – if not months – of shopping. Shopping for gifts, shopping for decorations, shopping for festive food and drink. But this is starting to change. In fact, a survey by the Principality Building Society found that a fifth of adults agree that they feel less confident about spending at Christmas due to external events such as Brexit.

Flixmedia's chief executive Scott Lester told the Retail Gazette: “consumer hesitance around over-spending will have led many to eke out their Christmas budgets, buying gifts – for themselves as well as others – before, throughout, and right up to the big day,”. 

Are consumers confident about Christmas?

The lack of consumer confidence to spend is reflected in the numbers. Spending figures from Black Friday 2017 did not indicate the restoration of consumer confidence, following the worst October on record. Like for like sales fell 1.3% overall in November, with a 2.5% year-on-year drop in fashion sales, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.  

What's changed?

There's expected to be a rise in online purchases via mobile devices this year, with over two thirds of online shopping on Christmas Day 2016 being done with mobile devices says ecommerce data company PCA Predict. Head of Marketing Chris Boaz attributes this to improved mobile phone capabilities such as more reliable smartphones, larger screen sized, improved data speed and mobile optimised websites meaning that consumers can "conduct more of their lives through their personal devices". He also notes that through the use of mobile devices, consumers can stick to family commitments whilst making their festive purchases.

The shift in where purchasing takes place is not putting retailers off, with half predicting rising revenues this Christmas. Three quarters identified as either as confident, or more confident about their prospects than they were 12 months ago.

BDO Head of Retail Sophie Michael noted that all signs pointed to a rough Christmas for the High Street. However, last year saw a last-minute pre-Christmas spending spree so could this year be the same?

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