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Deck The Malls….It’s October!
Engage Research | October 16, 2012
Are you in the Yuletide mood yet? Thought not. Christmas decorations and lights have already gone up in Nottingham’s Old Market Square this week and it’s still a good fortnight until Halloween; Christmas Trees have been available in John Lewis since the start of the month, whilst the BBC will film its “Songs of Praise” Christmas special on October 24th. And if you thought that was early, they will film the Easter special the following day. As Loudon Wainwright III sang: “Suddenly it's Christmas, right after Halloween. Forget about Thanksgiving; It's just a buffet in between.” So has Christmas arrived earlier to fill the post-Jubilympic gap? Are retailers trying to keep a low level of celebratory consumption bubbling in the background with crackers & cauldrons competing? Whether Christmas is indeed arriving earlier or not, one thing is for certain. Throughout the recession, talk of an austerity Christmas has never really come to reality as families have saved and stockpiled to ensure they have the best Yuletide season they can. The same will be the case this year. During what has been an undeniably tough few years, many people have clung like limpets to calendar staples like Christmas and Halloween as opportunities for an escape from everyday drudgery. It’s arguably one of the reasons why both the Jubilee and the Olympic Games inspired such overt public enthusiasm and excitement. But if we have clung to such events, so have brands and retailers, placing most of their hopes on a consequent economic bounce. That may be misplaced given that any post Jubilee/Olympic lift seems to have been transitory. Alternatively we may be heading towards an economy that simply bases itself on lurching from one special occasion or set-piece event to the next and just takes the economic benefit of each as they come along. The challenge for brands is to understand who is buying and for whom, what is influencing those purchasing decisions and to be able to respond to changing attitudes and behaviours in a way that enables them exploit whatever potential exists. This is where the use of online research and its ability to deliver insights quickly can assist brands in re-pointing activity fast, rather than having to wait ‘til the following season to implement slower moving research findings. Engage has also been creating more “experiential” qualitative research to transport consumers to a different mindset – useful for “out of season” research. Understanding how, where and why the shopper is buying is should be central to a merry Christmas for brands. The multi-channel shopping environment, of course, could also mean that Christmas may be less evident than when we shopped in a purely bricks and mortar world. Royal Mail reports that 40 million people shop online for Christmas gifts. This, coupled with the efficiency of high street retailers in terms of getting stock into store, also means we seem more comfortable buying later in the year than ever before. The propensity for retailers to start their January sales pre-Christmas means that more and more people are waiting as late as possible in order to bag a bargain. That also means it’s harder and harder for brands to calculate their own Christmas figures, particularly if they are forced into promotional or discounting programmes. Figures from 2009 found that nearly one fifth of Britons left at least part of their Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve, with Selfridges saying that around 80 per cent of its customers on Christmas Eve were men. So in these uncertain times it’s nice to see that some things don’t change.
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