The global pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives this year, including Britons’ Christmas shopping budgets, according to research by the Fashion Retail Academy. On average, people are planning to spend £341 on gifts this Christmas — 6% less than in 2019.
However, despite prevailing uncertainty about how Brits will spend Christmas this year, nearly two-thirds (63.4%) have already started shopping. The early start to stuffing stockings will come as one small scrap of good news for retailers and comes after the British Retail Consortium launched a campaign encouraging people to start shopping early to help spread demand.
A fifth (19.5%) said they would start shopping in early December, and only 3% of consumers said they will wait until the week before Christmas before getting their gift-buying underway.
In terms of budgets, planned spending varies among age groups, with younger people aged 18-24 — many of whom are in lower-paid jobs or facing the greatest employment uncertainty — budgeting to spend £221, which is 6% less than last year. People aged 45-54 are prepared to commit £382 to gift-giving, but this is still 10% less than last year.
The survey, conducted before the Prime Minister’s announcement to close non-essential businesses as part of a second national lockdown, found that a fifth (21.2%) of shoppers were expecting to double the amount of online shopping they do compared with last year.
The proportion of shopping being conducted online reached an all-time peak in May, during lockdown, with internet sales representing 33.9% of all purchases. Online shopping remains higher than pre-pandemic levels and may continue to grow this autumn with England coming under new restrictions.
Food and drink items will be among the most popular gifts this year, with 40% of people saying they will buy edible goods for their family. A third (33.9%) of shoppers say they will buy their family beauty products. A quarter of respondents (26.8%) said they would buy vouchers, despite the risk that retailers and other companies could go out of business, rendering the voucher unusable.
Lee Lucas, principal of the Fashion Retail Academy, says: “Retailers desperately need a strong Christmas to make up for the decline in sales seen during the first lockdown in the spring.
“Our research, showing two-thirds of shoppers will already have started their festive shopping in early November, spells good news for retailers in what is set to be one of the most difficult Christmas periods in decades. It suggests shoppers are not waiting for Black Friday discounts and, instead, have decided to plan ahead and spread out their spending in anticipation of further disruption to come.
“However, the amount shoppers are planning to spend is down on last year. Financial pressures are impacting Christmas budgets across the country, with job security hanging by a thread for many. There’s also a lot of uncertainty about how much of a family Christmas we’re all going to be able to enjoy if lockdown measures are extended.”