Retailers might have been urging customers to start their festive shopping in the summer but many Brits are leaving it to the last minute – if at all – with the emergence of a “new normal” leading to delays around when Brits start to feel “Christmassy”.
That is one of the key findings from Mindshare UK’s latest Reality Check report, which shows that, for many, this negativity is directly linked to money fears, with over half of 35- to 54-year-olds worried about the financial pressures of Christmas this year.
Despite eBay reporting that Brits had started their festive shopping in August, overall, the public’s sense of festive cheer has been significantly muted this year when compared with pre-pandemic times, with less than a quarter (23%) describing themselves as “full of festive cheer” compared to 39% in the same period in 2019.
Research conducted in late November and repeated over a four-year period (2019-2022), shows that significantly fewer people had started thinking about Christmas preparations in 2022 compared to pre-pandemic years.
In fact, 23% said they were yet to start buying presents, compared to just 4% in the same period in 2019, while only a third had put up their Christmas decorations compared to 47% in 2019, and just 26% had stocked up on alcoholic drinks, down from 40% in 2019.
While many retailers insisted Black Friday sales were strong, it appears that thrifty consumers spent less on Christmas gifts or bigger ticket treat items, and favoured more practical items, with air fryers and microwaves proving popular.
However, despite the economic gloom, one third of the public said they were feeling optimistic about Christmas, even though a large majority of respondents are expecting to be more restrained than in previous years.
Three-quarters (76%) said they will be “holding back” this year compared to 24% who said they will be indulging, while 73% said their focus will be on tradition over gift-giving (27%). Respondents also suggested there would be an emphasis on more thoughtful “token” gifts for close loved ones rather than extravagant purchases or “big ticket” items.
Mindshare UK head of research and insights Julia Ayling said: “Given the economic outlook, it’s not surprising that people are carefully managing costs this Christmas and making some difficult spending decisions.
“What is surprising is how late people are leaving preparations for Christmas; usually when household budgets are under pressure, we’d expect to see people planning earlier to help spread the costs. Instead, the mood is subdued, and has far more in common with our behaviours during the pandemic, rather than any kind of return to pre-Covid days.
“After two years of Christmas spent under restrictions, brands will have been hoping for something like a return to normality. The cost-of-living crisis means they will have to adapt once again.
“It’s not complete doom-and-gloom, though. Many people remain optimistic about this Christmas and with so many people putting off Christmas spending until far later than in previous years, there are opportunities for brands who resonate with the public to influence purchasing decisions right up until Christmas Eve.”
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It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiistmas – let the festive shop begin