Secrets of a successful Christmas

Paul H v2

Received wisdom has it that men always leave their festive shopping until late in December, scrabbling round on Christmas Eve looking for something to buy. However, at the risk of bursting the bubble, new research shows gender has no bearing on the timing of present buying. In fact, according to the findings, a household’s affluence has far greater influence on pre-Christmas spending patterns than age, lifestage or gender.
These are the results of a recent survey carried out by Acxiom, highlighting how retailers need to fully understand a family’s complex buying behaviours throughout December in order to entice recession-battered shoppers to spend in-store or online.
The analysis was based on 2,582 shoppers who responded to the online survey in late October this year. Geodemographic profiling was carried out using Acxiom’s Personicx segmentation, which classifies the UK population according to age, affluence and life-stage based on a range of behaviours.
Lots of statistics predicting average Christmas spend feature in headlines throughout December, along with how each channel is expected to fare over the festive period. But this analysis delved deeper into the propensity of different income bands to pick up their presents at different times of the pre-Christmas period.
The poll revealed that of the 32% of consumers who planned to have all of their Christmas shopping completed by the first week of December, the majority were from less affluent backgrounds. Meanwhile, a third of people will still not finish their gift buying come mid-December. And, as the Christmas deadline approaches, more affluent households will leave their gift buying until the last minute; in fact, 12% of consumers will not complete all of their shopping until Christmas Eve.
It’s not surprising that those on lower incomes will plan their spending carefully throughout the holiday period. Last-minute shopping means less time to research the most competitive prices and can result in panic buying. Wealthier consumers who are less price sensitive will be prepared to overspend to compensate for their lack of preparation.
Budget high-street retailers will have needed to ensure any promotions on discounted goods were well under way by the start of December. There is little point in aggressive price matching later in the month as most Christmas shopping by loyal customers will have already been completed by then.
Luxury goods retailers should be prepared for the long haul, however, as more affluent consumers flock to the tills in the week before Christmas. Tactical marketing using the right combination of channels throughout December should capitalise on these shoppers’ higher budgets and time constraints.
Christmas remains critically important to UK retailers and could even be make or break for some. Timing is everything and, by having insight into people’s shopping habits, store owners and online vendors can ensure their tills jingle right up until the big day.

Paul Hatley is a consumer insight specialist at Acxiom

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