Christmas is Coming


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It’s a non-moveable feast. Whether a retailer is ready for it or not, it comes round as regularly as The XFactor and the threat of snow ruining all of our commutes.

Christmas is the peak of “the golden quarter” for retailers, the period that can make or break a company’s fortunes for the year. And we can all name countless businesses that have folded directly after the festive season having clung on through the autumn in the hope of having a boom period, only to realise come January that the death knell really is ringing far louder than the sleigh bells were. Jessops and Blockbuster were lost at the start of the year (in both cases resurrected, and in Blockbuster’s case then lost again in November), and sadly it’s an all-too-common sight every new year, not least because the threat of quarterly rents hangs dark over any struggling brand.

So what is expected for Christmas 2013? The general message is one of optimism after so many years of “cross your fingers and batten down the hatches” in such turbulent economic times. Indeed, retailers are expecting the best Christmas for many many years. Research by retail analysts Conlumino shows that as last Christmas came round consumer confidence was at -20%, as compared to the current -3%. Forecasters are expecting to see expenditure grown by 1.2% for the period – while this is slight in comparison to the average 3.8% that existed between 1993 and 2007, it represents a return to growth after so many dark days.

Conlumino also comment on the change in our attitudes to spending. We are looking for quality goods that we know will be worth spending money on – and sales of gift vouchers are higher than they once were as it guarantees money well spent. But while higher price tag items are on the climb, fripperies like gift tags, wrapping paper and cards are on the decline; such throwaway items are less important, and as such the discount chains where these are sold for pennies are holding the market share.

But the key over-riding message for where success will lie this Christmas, is of course with those truly multichannel retailers. Any business that can deliver across clicks, bricks – and effective reliable delivery – will come up trumps. John Lewis traditionally see a boom in online sales on Christmas Day, and this year are expecting that figure to be higher than ever. But this year there’s a twist – for the first time ever mcommerce sales will overtake ecommerce sales. Apparently we’ll all be using our smartphones to make those purchases in front of the annual Eastenders bust-up, rather than disappearing to a room with a PC. The success of retail will quite literally be in the palm of our hands.

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