As retailers gear up to grab share of seasonal spend, Retail Week takes a look at the festive ranges on offer to excite shoppers.
From here on in, Christmas is front ofmind for retailers. Of course, there’s the back-to-school season and Halloween in between, but the bulk of spending will, as always, be made over the festive period – the only time of year that some retailers make a profit.
After relentlessly tough trading conditions all year, there will be all to play for over Christmas 2012, and the battle for spend will be hard fought. As pressures on shopper spend continue, value is likely to remain key.
According to Asda’s Mumdex panel, 46% of mums are more worried about the cost of Christmas this year and nearly a quarter intend to spend less this year. But they still intend to do all they can to ensure their families enjoy the festive period. Almost a third have started saving up to cover the seasonal costs.
And retailers are doing all they can to win seasonal purse share. This month, at the Christmas in July shows that have become as traditional in retail as mistletoe and mince pies in December, they have been showing off the food and other fare that they hope will excite shoppers.
Technology - Tablets and gadgets
In recent years, technology has become a big gift category as products such as tablet computers and smartphones have become increasingly popular.
This year, even toys specialist Hamleys’ list of likely Christmas bestsellers includes tablet devices for children. Electricals giant Dixons, owner of Currys and PC World, will expect to take the lead in seasonal sales of technology.
Sleek ultrabooks – slim, high-speed laptops that have been marketed as revolutionary in their design – smart and 3D televisions, Apple products and kitchen gadgets such as coffee machines are likely to be bestsellers.
Premium style with a premium price tag is also on offer at John Lewis in the form of Monster Diamond Tears Edge headphones, retailing at £249.95. The headphones offer top-quality sound and technology that allows users to take calls on their iPhone.
For a personalised spin on an iPhone case, John Lewis has exclusivity over the Made By Me service that enables customers to upload a picture online, which can then be made into a protective case. Offering a more playful take on the iPad, the department store group is also offering the GameChanger, which transforms the iPad into an interactive board game.
John Lewis also predicts the Kurio from InspirationWorks will fly off the shelves. Likened to a tablet, the Kurio is a gaming device “suitable for the entire family at an affordable price”. It has “an intuitive user interface designed specifically for children”.
Shop Direct, meanwhile, expects the Samsung Series 5 UltraBook to be among its best sellers.
This cash-conscious Christmas, the battle between established retailers and the new generation of low-price online rivals is likely to be fiercer than ever. Retailers with shops, such as Dixons and John Lewis, will seek to make seasonal sales by showing off product and creating excitement in-store, as well as by emphasising their service credentials.
Health and beauty - Sweet-smelling sellers
Fragrance is usually big business over the festive period, often making a classic gift for men and women.
Superdrug and sister business The Perfume Shop aim to drive sales with better and more unique products this Christmas.
The Perfume Shop will launch own- brand fragrances for the first time this festive season. The range, unveiled in November, will comprise four perfumes and two aftershaves, aimed at all ages. All scents retail at a lower price point than their branded counterparts, at about £10, making the products more accessible as a gift or stocking fillers.
Fragrance sets come out in force in the run-up to Christmas and Superdrug’s tips for big sellers include Lacoste Touch of Pink, Jimmy Choo, and Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million and Lady Million. Superdrug’s Christmas range will also include new celebrity fragrances from Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, while designer Hugo Boss launches Nuit alongside Calvin Klein’s Encounter, which are both expected to be popular purchases.
Online giant Shop Direct expects Lady Gaga’s first fragrance, Fame, which launches in August, to be one of its biggest selling perfumes in history. Group retail director Gareth Jones expects the gift set will prove a popular stocking filler.
At Boots, exclusive branded offerings across bath and beauty ranges are key this year as the retailer seeks to differentiate its range from rivals.
It is continuing its relationship with bath and spa brands Champneys and Sanctuary, but new ranges such as Betty and Walter designed by Lisa Stickley-Levis and Henry Holland’s House of Holland will also be available. Boots’ own-brand No7 range is also expected to be a popular pick this Christmas.
Exclusive ranges of beauty electricals across popular brands such as Babyliss, John Frieda and Mark Hill are tipped to do well.
Toys - Game-changers
Disney and Hamleys have pulled out all the stops to showcase classic children’s favourites as well as cutting-edge digital toys.
To appeal to customers of all ages with budgets of all sizes, Disney will offer a range of products across the price point spectrum, with a stack of stocking fillers for less than £10, right up to its Swarovski-crystal jewellery retailing at as much as £95.
Disney says it always has a solid festive trading season thanks to its perpetually popular Mickey Mouse & Friends franchise. Walt Disney Company’s chief marketing officer for the UK & Ireland, Anna Hill, says: “There’s a rising trend among consumers of falling in love with everything retro, and Disney – with its vast heritage of storytelling and beloved characters – is uniquely placed to meet this interest.”
Hamleys’ top 50 picks include traditional toys alongside the new, featuring classics such as Lego Star Wars and Subbuteo, plus tablet computers, and an iPhone-compatible Moshi Monster game. Varied price points are also key, with more expensive products on offer including scooters and electric bikes.
The famous Hamleys bear is also making an appearance, this time in a ‘mistletoe’ guise. There’s also a family board game, oddly called Bum Face, on offer.
Tesco has a £10 ‘air guitar’ that actually plays notes when strummed.
Shop Direct, meanwhile, expects last year’s favourite, the new model of Leapfrog’s LeapPad Explorer, to be a big hit. And children’s technology is likely to be among Debenhams top sellers, with the Vtech InnoTab one of the must-haves.
The Entertainer’s buying director, Stuart Grant, says: “Parents have cottoned on to the idea that they can use their children’s appetite for technology to boost their learning.”
Food - Seasonal treats
A focus on value and quality characterise this year’s offer from the big food groups.
Retailers including Asda and Tesco will emphasise their top-of-the range lines and seasonal treats while ensuring there is plenty to appeal to the cash-strapped.
Asda will, like last Christmas, make the most of its partnership with Leiths School of Food and Wine. Chefs from the school have helped create products for the retailer’s Extra Special range.
While the traditional turkey features, there is an increased emphasis on game, such as venison in this year’s seasonal food lines. It was on display at Asda’s show and is also taken up by Marks & Spencer.
M&S says game “continues to grow in popularity” and is therefore introducing its first three game roast, comprising pigeon, partridge and pheasant.
Tesco, too, was showing off its Finest range at its show, complemented by value lines such as Christmas puddings for £2. The grocer also highlighted new details to product, such as a cake decorated with ‘lacework’ icing, designed to trigger associations with TV series Downton Abbey.
Quality grocer Waitrose is tipping English wine to prove a hit tipple. It has more than 40 still and sparkling versions. It will also be offering more innovative products from chef Heston Blumenthal, including a retro baked Alaska, a chocolate-covered, spherical Christmas cake and, for the third year, the Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding will be hitting the shelves.
Home - Kitchen style
Festive decorations play a key part in the Christmas experience, and DIY giant B&Q is touting four main trends for this year: City Chic, which incorporates cityscape scenes and glass taxi baubles; Winter Woodland, which centres on folk-inspired, craft woodland animals; Swan Lake, inspired by the ballet and in an array of silvers, whites and lavenders; and Santa Baby, a retro 1970s multi-colour range with santas, reindeers and sequins.
In the home category, high street retailers aim to capitalise on the surge in popularity of home cooking.
Kitchenware specialist Lakeland says the trend for fine-dining at home gives it high hopes this yuletide. Lakeland says: “While the trading climate for retailers remains challenging, it’s not all doom and gloom for us – far from it, in fact.”
Waitrose also aims to capitalise on the trend, with its ‘Food for thought’ range giving customers “all the baking tools you need to prepare for Christmas”, from old-fashioned pudding bowls to stylish gravy pourers.
The grocer is also pushing its accessories and dining gifts to help customers “give a finishing touch” to their Christmas celebrations.
Sister store John Lewis is backing gadgets for the foodie. The Tefal Fresh Express Plus Chopper and the Dualit Hand Mixer are among its potential bestsellers, according to its buying team.
The department store group also expects Neom sensuous candles to do well, perhaps to help all the amateur chefs to de-stress after the big day.
Fashion - Christmas crackers
Marks & Spencer expects men to “dress dapper” this Christmas, taking inspiration from what is expected to be this year’s blockbuster, the movie adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. M&S anticipates its double- breasted men’s suit to be among the top sellers. Women, meanwhile, are expected to dress a little less formally, and the retailer’s “luxurious and gorgeous” cashmere tracksuit is tipped to be a big hit.
Matalan has picked out four key Christmas themes. It describes ‘Winter Wonderland’ as ethereal, with frosted pastel colour pallets highlighted with silver, gold and heavy embellishment. Its ‘Canyon Child’ range is a winter festival, boho-inspired collection, fusing opulent fabrics with a laid-back party style. ‘Decadence’ will be a 1920s-inspired collection, highlighted by rose gold, champagne, deep purple, navy and soft pink. Finally, ‘Opulence’ will feature traditional red, black and lace collections.
John Lewis anticipates a sales uplift in fashion classics with a twist, including a £225 cashmere robe and Harris tweed slippers for £60.
Shop Direct Group retail director Gareth Jones thinks Christmas will be all about celebrity ranges. Jameela Jamil for Very and Myleene Klass for Littlewoods are expected to be big hits for the party season.
Debenhams expects its Designers at Debenhams ranges to come into their own. Its Rocha Puzzle coat and H! by Henry Holland checked shift dress are tipped for success. Leather is also set to be a big trend.
House of Fraser forecasts that nostalgic novelty gifts such as the Linea Weekend red robin jumper and Therapy Fair Isle ear muffs will be big.
- Christmas in July
- Department Stores
- Disney Stores
- General Merchandise
- Health & Beauty
- Home & DIY
- House of Fraser
- John Lewis
- Kingfisher B&Q
- Marks & Spencer
- Online retail & ecommerce
- Shop Direct
- The Entertainer