Anticipated supply issues this festive season are driving consumers to shop earlier this year and forcing retailers to respond. Retail Week looks at how the likes of Tesco, Selfridges and Hotel Chocolat are preparing their supply chains for Christmas coming early. 

Family Christmas dinner, with people at the table pulling crackers

Springboard predicts that consumers will begin shopping earlier than ever, with the peak expected to take place on the week of Black Friday. 

A 7.9% increase in footfall is expected that week compared with the week before, contrasting with the rise of 1.7% during Black Friday week pre-pandemic in 2018 and 2019. 

Christmas spend is also being dragged forward in non-food categories online.

Selfridges reported that Christmas-related online searches have more than quadrupled this year, with decoration sales already 225% ahead of forecast at the beginning of October.

Advent calendars were the number one search term on for the last two weeks of September. Sales of food advent calendars alone have surged by a whopping 1,226% compared with 2020 levels. ‘Christmas products’ became the second most-searched-for term with Christmas Day still 100 days away.

In mid-September, John Lewis said searches for Christmas products were up 150% this year compared with last.

Consumers are also preparing their wardrobes for the festivities with Sosandar reporting that sequins, Christmas jumpers and faux fur coats are all bestsellers. This follows the retailer’s decision to stock for Christmas in the autumn in anticipation of demand. 

Notonthehighstreet chief commercial officer Leanne Osborne said: “It seems the summer months and ‘newfound’ freedom have turned many people’s minds to planning their Christmas earlier than ever before.” 

She added that Notonthehighstreet’s partners had long been planning Christmas stock 18 months ahead of Brexit to ensure availability.

“We’re not waiting around for the government to sort things out. The days of being able to run a cigarette-paper-thin supply chain and get away with it are well and truly over”

Angus Thirlwell, Hotel Chocolat

This was echoed by Hotel Chocolat’s Angus Thirlwell: “We know we’re going to have a strong Christmas because we’ve got the stock to react to customer changes. Our customer base has grown by nearly a third [since Covid] and we’ve currently got the stock to get through Christmas trading super-strongly.

“We’re not waiting around for the government to sort things out. We’ve invested in a robust supply chain to ensure the flow of product heading into Christmas and have met many of those costs ourselves to stay tight with our customers.

“I think the days of being able to run a cigarette-paper-thin supply chain and get away with it are well and truly over.”

Kantar head of retail and consumer Fraser McKevitt said that stores were already noticing Christmas products in baskets.

“449,000 eager consumers bought their Christmas pudding in September, with sales 76% higher than in the same month last year,” he said. 

He added that sales of toys rose by 5% while gift-wrapping products increased by 10%.

Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy sought to reassure customers that its supply chains are prepared 

Tesco is stocking up on essentials in anticipation of spending being brought forward by customers fearing shortages.

Murphy said Tesco has “secured 10% more turkeys than we sold last year”. He added that every year “60% of all the turkeys we sell are frozen turkeys and we’ve seen an elevated demand for frozen turkeys this year”.

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