Late last month I was asked to present to a German company on the latest retail trends and developments from around the world.

Late last month I was asked to present to a German company on the latest retail trends and developments from around the world. Bit of a tall order, but given the closeness to Christmas, it was an opportunity to talk about the seasonal build-up in the UK and to show some ads including, of course, The Bear & the Hare.

After the two-minute clip, a room full of 200 Germans, many of whom didn’t know anything about John Lewis, broke into a collective “ahh” and then applause. Quite something.

Back home, cynical Brits are enjoying spoofs of the ad including Private Eye’s ‘seasonal’ front cover, which shows a bear that has wreaked bloody havoc on the animals around the tree. “I told you not to wake me up,” says the bear to the hare.

Maybe we’re not so cynical after all though, if the John Lewis shopping bag count is anything to go by on Oxford Street this past week alone.

This is all good news for one retailer, but what about everyone else? Even with just a few more weeks to go, it really is too early to say. The rush - and even riots - around our apparent adoption of the US’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday might point towards a stronger Christmas this year compared with 2012.

Looking back to a year ago, it is interesting to re-read comments from economists and politicians claiming we were going to have to accept low or no growth for the foreseeable future. It didn’t make for a very encouraging New Year message.

A year on and the mood and economic indicators do look more positive. There just seems no pattern to it all.

People will tighten their belts for some things and not for others. How else to explain the rush for the new Xbox, PlayStation, iPad Mini or iPad Air that will set you back several hundreds of pounds?

Consumers know they have to make choices and sacrifice some things in favour of others. Perhaps Harvey Nichols’ ‘Sorry, I spent it on myself’ Christmas ad best sums up the UK consumer. Pity the hare that gives the bear just an alarm clock for Christmas.

  • Ian McGarrigle, Chairman, World Retail Congress