When, where and how did consumers do their Xmas shopping?
This month’s question to our panel was how, when and where do you do your Christmas shopping?
There has been much written recently about how Christmas shopping is moving online and the number of shoppers doing so is increasing each year. Predictions this year are for record levels of shoppers kicking back at home and buying their gifts via their smartphones, tablets and home computers.
It is easy to see why. As well as avoiding the crowds, online shopping, in the words of one panel member, “allows me to get exactly what people want, and it allows me to compare prices easily without having to go to a number of different stores to do so”. And for those not living in cities or metropolitan areas, online shopping usually allows for a much wider choice than local shopping options.
In addition to the move online, the other strategy increasingly adopted by consumers is the tendency to plan and purchase gifts throughout the year. This could be driven by the desire to avoid the last minute Christmas shopping rush, or financial planning, or both. The commercialisation of Christmas has led to increased expectations of gifts and of the Christmas experience itself. No longer is it one modest tree in the corner of the lounge – there is Christmas tableware, Christmas doormats/cushions/ornaments and complex light systems illuminate houses and backyards across the country. There are even dedicated Christmas stores in which to purchase everything you need for the perfect Christmas experience. Though there are those who display a ‘Bah Humbug’ attitude about all this (one respondent describes Christmas as a “commercial racket” of which he wants no part), the majority are engaged, but are increasingly looking for the easiest way to manage the extra workload involved.
As well as the time planning aspect, consumers are price conscious and there is the perception that buying gifts earlier in the year is cheaper, as well as the obvious benefit of spreading the cost throughout the year. Some even go to the lengths of buying next year’s presents at the post Christmas sales. When cost is a real issue, there is also a tendency to prioritise gifts for children over adults.
However despite good intentions and planning throughout the year, there is still an increase in shopping by foot as Christmas approaches. Summed up well by another panel member “We try to buy or make gifts throughout the year, but we often still wind up with a mad rush in the week leading up to Christmas”. There is a sense of running out of time, and this creates stress. To add to this, December in general is a busy month for people, with Christmas organisation and work deadlines, and hence consumers are likely to be receptive to anything that makes the pre-Christmas shopping experience easier and less painful. This brings us back to the online shopping experience. Surely, as expectations of what Christmas is meant to be rise and our society continues to become busier, it will only continue to gain in popularity.
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