While retailers ramp up for Black Friday and Christmas, the 2020 shopping season is looking to be very different to what we have seen in previous years. With coronavirus cases continuing to rise across the United Kingdom and regions being under different tiers of restrictions, consumers may become increasingly wary of visiting busy stores in-person when they could shop from the safety of their own homes instead.
To find out how consumers are feeling about Christmas shopping this year, Sensormatic Solutions conducted a survey of 1,000 UK consumers. These are the trends we discovered.
Consumers are planning on starting their shopping earlier this year
Our survey found that 46% of UK-based consumers will have already started their shopping by the end of October, with only 16% planning to wait until December. This reflects findings already seen by the retail industry, with the British Retail Consortium’s Helen Dickinson saying, “BRC’s September sales figures show signs some customers have already started a little earlier than usual, as spreading your Christmas shopping has many benefits in today’s climate – from safety to managing finances.” This was also echoed by Seb James, President & Managing Director at Boots, who added, “I think people are planning ahead and they’re right to do so. Last minute cramming is just not going to work… we hope that people will spread out their shopping.”
We also discovered that younger people are more likely to start shopping earlier, with 48% of 18-24 year olds and 54% of 25-34 year olds saying they will begin by the end of October. In contrast, only 34% of those 65+ are planning on doing the same, with the majority planning to start their shopping in November.
Price is a key factor
Forty-eight percent of respondents said that price was most important to them when shopping in-store this Christmas. With many lost jobs due to the pandemic, and with the uncertainty continuing, James said, “people are going to be much more anxious about money so value is going to be much more important this Christmas.”
Product availability (21%) and cleanliness (17%) were the next most-important factors when shopping in-store this year. Cleanliness was especially important to those 65+, with 23% saying it was most important to them, compared to only 6% of those aged 18-24.
Online shopping popular, but consumers still willing to visit the shops
When asked which services they plan on using for their Christmas shopping, 64% of respondents said they plan to shop online for home delivery, with only 18% plan to shop exclusively online. However, 52% said they plan to shop in-store, in addition to the 17% who plan to use Click & Collect, with this option being especially popular among 25-34 year olds (26%). When asked why they plan to shop in-store, 67% of respondents said they wanted to browse for gift ideas, or to see and touch products before making a purchase (27%).
However, 63% of respondents said that they planned to shop less in-store this year, with just 3% planning to shop more. This was largely due to fears of COVID-19 (47%), with people also raising concerns about other shoppers not following social distancing guidelines (47%), and the potential of long queues to get into stores (42%). While there may be fewer people browsing, those who do visit are going with a purpose, so the in-store experience is still of paramount importance.
What does this mean for retailers?
Although fewer people plan on visiting brick-and-mortar stores this year, the Christmas shopping season will be more spread out. Consumers are shopping with purpose, and may be coming to buy specific items, so retailers should ensure they have good product availability. Retailers who can offer this, alongside a safe shopping environment, will be able to capitalise on those customers who are still planning to shop in-store this festive season.