Christmas spending reined in
I went into town yesterday. And got absolutely soaked to the skin.
Granted, I didn’t have to go out. It was a ‘want’ as opposed to a ‘must have’.
And, being a bit of a scrooge, I certainly wasn’t going to get myself wet through buying Christmas presents.
Turns out though, no-one else was out there buying gifts either.
Seriously, the high street was pretty much deserted, other than the occasional lunatic like myself, squelching to one shop for something they couldn’t live without, before heading straight home again.
It has been, quite frankly, miserable weather.
Storm Marjorie (or was it Deidre? I know it was the name of an agony Aunt) has been beating seven bells out of our shores.
So, it really is no wonder that people are choosing to stay at home.
I’d have anticipated that people are letting their fingers do the walking and are finishing their last-minute Christmas shopping online rather than venturing out in the freezing rain.
Especially those of us that don’t have relatives worth drowning for!
Bad weather…. Or Brexit?
Turns out though, it’s not just the shitty weather that’s keeping people indoors.
Sure, it’s sufficiently an emotive end user experience to go out shopping in the week before Christmas and get soaked for your troubles.
But another indeed if you don’t want to venture to the shops in the first place because you’re concerned as to what’s around the corner.
And that’s what appears to be happening this year.
Consumers are cash-strapped. That, coupled with the uncertainty as to what’s in store for the economy from a Brexit perspective, means that it’s not just rain clouds hanging over the UK high street.
According to predictions, footfall is expected to fall by 3% this week. And that’s pretty damning for retailers, especially when you considered that the week before Christmas is usually one of the busiest shopping weeks of the year.
It seems not even sales have their usual pulling power.
Of course, there is one or two silver linings….
Customer feedback management teams won’t be having their festive spirit crushed out of them by disgruntled, last minute shoppers.
And less people than usual will be having to smile politely and give thanks for a present that they don’t want and have no clue what to do with.
That isn’t of much use to retailers, though.
Let’s face it, we really don’t know what’s in store for the New Year with Brexit. So consumers are definitely feeling a little twitchy and, therefore, are keeping a tight hold on the purse strings.
Which obviously has a knock-on effect on Christmas spending.
And, according to retail forecasts, it’s not like everyone is simply ploughing their hard-earned cash into Amazon.
Nope, for once people just aren’t spending.
Especially those who had to dip into their savings or took on extra debt that they were still paying off at low interest rates following the 2008 financial crisis.
It seems the focus has switched to rising rail fares and utility bills instead. People are filling their rainy-day coffers as opposed to splashing out on festive, frivolous (and, frankly, pointless) Christmas tat.
According to the boss of Sports Direct, as far as shopping months go, November was “the worst on record, unbelievably bad.”
Of course, retailers don’t budget for months that bomb so astronomically.
So, they’ll really be banking on an upturn in sales and hoards of loyal consumers beating down their doors in the final trading week before the holidays.
It’s anticipated that high street stores will be going all out in the battle to win customers and regain some of their recent losses, so end-users can probably look forward to seeing some good bargains.
Though it probably needs someone to do whatever the opposite of a rain dance is (maybe a sun dance?!)
Saturday’s crap weather resulted in and estimated 9% drop in high-street footfall. Or an 8% drop if taking shopping centres and retail parks into the equation too.
Less is more
Ok, if you are a retailer, you could be pleasantly surprised. Maybe end users will all come out of the woodwork this weekend for a festive, emotive experience and last-minute shopping spree.
I wouldn’t hold your breath though.
Several people I know decided to opt for alternative gifts – (such as memberships or concert tickets – when the freezing rain put paid to their plans to hit the high street last Saturday.
It seems that, as a collective, consumers are finally starting to embrace the concept of ‘less is more.’
It started slowly, with a shift to trying to stay away from overly packaged goods, and people opting for alternatives that weren’t encased in a ton of plastic.
Now, we are apparently starting to realise that, as customers, we gather too much unnecessary crap in our lives.
Experiential gifts – such as days out or memberships, are becoming more and more popular.
Friends are also opting to have dinner or a night down the pub rather than exchanging unnecessary and unwanted gifts and gimmicks.
Consumers are also starting to make more ethical shopping choices in response to environmental concerns, which are brought to light by the likes of the banned Iceland advert focusing on the negative impact of palm oil.
You can’t always get what you want…
These testing times are definitely tough for businesses.
As many of even the big names have said, it is difficult to claw your way back from a lean handful of months.
So, considering consumer concerns, what’s a business to do?
Well, first of all, it’s important to understand your consumers.
What will offer them an emotive end-user experience?
What is it that will bring them in through your doors to part with their hard-earned wages?
Perhaps it will be festive deal that’s too good to miss.
Or, more importantly, a great deal on an ethical, environmentally friendly product or service.
Just remember though…
Don’t try to give them what they want. They don’t have the surplus cash for that at the moment.
Give them what they need.