By Helen Davies, Head of Retail Why, part of the bezier group
Is it just me or does Christmas seem to get earlier every year?
I always thought Christmas was on 25th December. Every year.
So how many gifts, how much food and how much drink do retailers think we can buy? And how long do they think it takes us?
There seems to be some kind of retailer myth out there that says the earlier they start the Christmas chant the more money they are going to make. But are we really influenced by Christmas trees and baubles when we’ve scarcely got over our summer holiday?
The major grocers had their seasonal Christmas aisles well and truly established at the beginning of October. The odd decoration and Christmas assortment was spotted even earlier. Next was displaying large silver wreaths in its windows in our balmy October.
A survey by high street bank Halifax says people across the UK spend an average of £384 on Christmas presents, buying around 18 gifts each. Deloitte’s Christmas Retail Survey reports that consumers intend to spend 7% more this year – with a colossal predicted spend of £33.6 billion.
But traditionally the major Christmas shopping surge comes in the last two weeks. With retailers communicating earlier and earlier, by the time we hit mid-December they are into their most aggressive promotional and pricing activities – which in theory should have an impact on margins.
The Halifax survey also shows that four out of ten do not start their Christmas shopping until December so it will be interesting to see how the spend patterns for Q4 2007 end up.
We believe that retailers can learn a lot from understanding shopper need-states and influences. Given the vast spend by every retailer on visual merchandising for what is becoming a three to four month Christmas onslaught they should be researching the impact on the shopper and their ROI now to help Christmas 2008 to be even more profitable.
Retail Why? the consultancy arm of the bezier group, was out and about amongst shoppers at the end of October asking who has already begun their shopping and who is leaving it until December.
We found that one third of the gifts already purchased were unplanned – and therefore influenced by the in-store environment and that the key influence was pricing. In-store displays ranked highly for drawing attention to items and converting purchase.
So, the early in-store onslaught appears to work in terms of impulse buys but in the long term does it make us spend more? Christmas in October? Or keeping Father Christmas firmly rooted in December? Maybe retailers should put it to the shopper vote?
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