What will a late Black Friday, December general election and midweek Christmas Day mean for the final few weeks of trading?

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With Barclaycard reporting that the transaction value of Black Friday sales was up by 16.5% year on year, the UK’s Christmas shopping spree seems to have only just begun.

Brexit uncertainty and the upcoming general election did not seem to deter shoppers last week, both online and in store, as they took full advantage of the retail sales.

But will this shopping frenzy continue into the political uncertainty of December? And how can retailers hope to keep up with those inevitable last-minute purchases?

Midweek Christmas

With Christmas Day falling on a Wednesday this year, UK customers have an extra weekend to hit the shops and will be able to squeeze in next-day delivery orders on Monday December 23 to get their gifts in time for the big day.

Research from Walnut Unlimited reveals that 50% of shoppers across all age groups will look to do the majority of their Christmas shopping online this year; therefore, retailers that offer the best delivery options are well placed to secure last-minute spend.

“Retailers must focus on reducing the pain points of purchasing, particularly for last-minute purchasers,” says Amy Nichols, research director at Walnut Unlimited.

“We have seen the cliche about men buying presents at the last minute coming true. This suggests male-targeted communications very close to Christmas might be more relevant”

Amy Nichols, Walnut Unlimited

“For example, research from ‘neuroeconomics’ expert George Loewenstein shows that consumers are willing to pay more for complete bundles of items rather than chasing down individual products and accessories.

“In stores we have seen the cliche about men buying presents at the last minute coming true. It is common on Christmas Eve to see around two-thirds of shoppers being male – in fact, the queue outside Pandora was entirely male!

“This suggests male-targeted communications about gift-buying very close to Christmas might be more relevant, particularly in stores.”

Election effect

The looming general election on December 12 may cause an early-December lull in spending, leading to a last-minute rush as retailers and customers alike wait for a more certain political future.

The election results could also cement a more solid future for any Brexit plans, resulting in a resurgent and more confident consumer.

“It is true that any period of uncertainty can affect consumer spend and outlook,” says Nichols.

“There is no doubt there will be winners and losers in the retail world this Christmas – those who are able to tap into the consumer mindset effectively with the right communication and positioning will be best placed to see a good commercial performance.” 

“In terms of delivery, with Christmas Day on a Wednesday, retailers must be really clear when the cut-off date for delivery before Christmas will be – furniture retailers are already doing this.”

Stocking up  

Keen to have fresh food ready for the big day and avoid crowded supermarkets, securing a festive online food shop slot is now on the December to-do list for many.

Tesco’s website crashed at midnight on November 27, just as delivery slots for December 23 and 24 were released.

Angry customers took to Twitter to express their frustrations as delivery slots were booked out in the early hours of the morning.

Grocery retailers should focus on a seamless experience from shop to front door to secure festive spend.

As with gifts, shopping for the all-important Christmas dinner may be left until later this year, with the final weekend before the big day paramount for making last-minute sales. 

Grocers will need to make sure their shelves are fully stocked with all the festive essentials until the final hours of Christmas Eve to capitalise on any late rush.