Five things we've learnt from British shoppers

From BBC - January 11, 2018

British retailers have published sales figures for the trading period up to and including Christmas, and while there have been record takings for some, the festive season proved gloomy for others.

Consumers are continuing to alter their buying habits to factor in that American import Black Friday as well as increasingly turning to the internet. Unusual trends are emerging.

Here are five things we learnt about UK shoppers this Christmas:

1. Everybody's going online

Sales figures show that retailers with good online shopping operations continue to do well, such as Next, which reported saw a 13.6% rise in online sales in the 54 days to 24 December, and online fast fashion retailer Boohoo, where revenues doubled to 228m in the four months to the end of December.

According to Natalie Berg, global research director of Planet Retail, retailers with a "robust online strategy" which includes super-fast delivery are the ones who gained the most from Christmas.

John Lewis, whose like-for-like sales were up 3.1% for the six weeks to 30 December, said that two thirds of its Click-and-Collect orders were picked up by shoppers when they went grocery shopping to Waitrose stores, showing that convenience is a big factor for consumers.

And it seems that delivery times have sped up dramatically.

"In retail, time wars are becoming the new price wars. A few years ago, three to four days was acceptable, but today same-day delivery is becoming the norm," said Ms Berg.

"For example, Argos made a big deal that shoppers could place an order as late at 1pm on Christmas Eve and have it delivered at 6pm."

2. 'Tis the season to treat yourself - to food

Another interesting trend is that although consumers are tightening their belts fiscally, that does not mean their waistlines are shrinking.

Some supermarkets reported a strong demand for their premium ranges over the festive season.

Sales of Morrison's "The Best" productwere up 25%, while Sainsbury's said customers bought more Taste the Difference food than last year as "people treated themselves".

Tesco said it saw "record sales and volumes" in the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day, due to sales of Tesco's Finest and the upmarket Go Cook range doing well, and Waitrose sold a month's worth of stock of Heston Citrus Sherbert Lazy Gin in just one day.

"What's interesting is that instead of trading up to a premium supermarket like Waitrose or Marks & Spencer, people have been trading up within the normal retailers they shop at and just buying more premium products," said Bryan Roberts, an insight director at TCC Global, the consultancy.

3. Black Friday is a mixed blessing

Black Friday has been both a blessing and a curse for British retailers.

A US tradition, it signals the start of the Christmas shopping season and begins on the day after Thanksgiving in late November.

In some cases, it has brought spending forward. People take the opportunity to shop for presents and bargains, but then when the prices return to normal in early December before Christmas, they do not want to pay the full amount.

However, there has been criticism that often Black Friday deals are not really as good as they seem, especially since some retailers routinely have multiple sales throughout the year.

For some, Black Friday has been tremendously successful, such as Dixons Carphone and supermarkets like Waitrose, says Mr Roberts.

4. Shoppers are wary of too many discounts

5. Amazon is still king


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