Pressure on UK household incomes prompts earlier Christmas gift shopping

Sensormatic Solutions, the leading global retail solutions portfolio of Johnson Controls, today released its third annual European Holiday Consumer Sentiment Survey, which found that the majority of UK shoppers will start Christmas shopping earlier this year.  The survey showed that 73% of UK consumers will dedicate more time to seeking out deals and locking in prices on gifts early in their Christmas shopping this year.

Original research of 1,000 UK shoppers by Sensormatic Solutions in its latest report showed that over half (50%) of consumers had already started their Christmas shopping by the end of October.  As UK shoppers look to get ahead on gift buying, 40% said they planned to shop earlier for Christmas than they did last year and 79% will have already started Christmas shopping by the beginning of December, the traditional start of Advent.  Almost a third (31%) had already started as early as September – an increase of +22 percentage points year on year – and a further 29% plan on starting their Christmas shopping in November.

The rising cost of living is bringing forward Christmas spending, according to the poll.  Almost three quarters of UK shoppers (73%) will spend more time searching out deals when gift-buying, while 45% said they were opting to shop sooner to ‘lock in’ the cost of gifts to avoid price rises.  Meanwhile, a quarter (23%) of shoppers said they were buying earlier to avoid supply chain disruption and out of stocks.  And with Royal Mail strikes planned over 19 days including during peak trading retail events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a further 17% said they had brought forward gift-buying to avoid shipping delays.

With the rising cost of living driving sustained and accelerated price sensitivity among UK shoppers, three quarters (74%) said price was the most important factor when shopping in-store this Christmas, rising +9 percentage points year-on-year, and following a +17 percentage point jump year-on-year in 2021.

“Pricing and product availability are coming through strongly as key factors impacting consumer behaviour over Christmas trading this year,” Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic Solution’s EMEA retail consultant, commented.   “As such, many retailers are already responding with price freezes to support customers, even though at the same time they are also keenly feeling the rising cost bases across their supply chains, purchasing and labour costs.”

And with two thirds (67%) of UK consumers planning to spend less this year over Christmas – up 23 percentage points on 2021 – guaranteeing the best price in-store topped the poll as the thing that would make shoppers most likely to buy in-store this Christmas.  This was followed by 42% who said greater confidence in stock availability would increase the likelihood of them choosing to shop in-store over the festive period.

“With price being the watchword, and with pricing sensitivity prompting cautious and earlier than usual Christmas spend, retailers need to consider that, as consumers adjust to what’s being coined the ‘new abnormal,’ their usual in-store traffic peaks might not follow that of a traditional festive season,” Sumpter continued.  “This means adjusting staffing levels to ensure customer service and CX in-store can be maintained and, with product availability also ranking high on shoppers’ agendas, considering additional fulfilment options such as click-and-collect, to meet these demands and drive ambient footfall into store.”

For further information on Christmas shopping trends, insight into how consumers plan to shop during peak trading 2022, and how retailer can optimise their strategies to capitalise on the Golden Quarter, download the report.

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