Our first, and hopefully last, Christmas period to be directly affected by the pandemic will present new challenges. With all non-essential retail prohibited until the 2nd of December, this will be a Christmas defined by online sales. The reduction of footfall to zero is a challenge in itself and other stumbling blocks are likely to arise and have already risen, at all levels of retail businesses.
There’s rising unemployment, contributing to an estimated 2.5million unemployed by Christmas alongside the possibility of a recession. While furlough payments have been extended throughout the second lockdown, a feeling of insecurity around people’s economic situation remains. Consumers can be expected to be more cautious regarding their Christmas expenditure than in a usual year. People will still be spending, it’s just a matter of how much and on what.
During the 2008/2009 recession, there was still an uptick in spending during the Christmas period. We saw an 11% increase compared to the previous three months at Christmas 2008. We can be cautiously certain that a large and increasing number of Christmas purchases will be made online. Online grocery sales, for example, have risen since the beginning of the first lockdown. This now accounts for an estimated 11.5-13% of all grocery sales, a trend that can be expected to develop in other retail sectors too.
Take to the Internet This Christmas
Being online and visible to customers is going to be more important to retailers this year than ever before. As far as customers are concerned, retailers have had more than 6 months to pivot their approach, refine their online platform and prepare to meet the adapted needs of the consumer. Developing an online presence where there may have not been one before and prioritising the logistics around deliveries to ensure the customer a smooth and reliable transaction in a busy and stressful period are things that customers will expect as standard.
Of course, the reality is that for retailers, living up to these expectations is no small task. There have been such a variety of other issues to account for this year, as well as the day to day running of the business. These considerations could easily have fallen short of the mark. The key to success this winter for retailers will be, their ability to adapt quickly and efficiently utilise their infrastructure.