Shoppers in the UK have started their Christmas shopping earlier than ever this year, resulting in the best monthly growth for over a decade.
The British Retail Consortium has revealed that significant numbers of British consumers have already started their Christmas shopping this year, following warnings from industry bodies that retailers may be overwhelmed by a last-minute festive rush.
Retail sales rose 5.6% in September (6.1% on a same-store basis), according to BRC data, the strongest monthly growth since December 2009 (with Easter excluded).
“September sales have also given retailers early signs that consumers are starting their Christmas shopping earlier this year, which retailers are encouraging their customers to do in order to manage demand at Christmas and keep people safe,” said Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the BRC.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, which helped compile the data, said retailers had also benefitted from the reopening of schools last month. “It’s clear that ‘Back to School’ activity gave fashion and footwear retailers a much-needed boost from lacklustre performance,” he said. “Elsewhere though the focus remains on home-related items, including household appliances, furniture and technology. Online sales have eased slightly, but it’s clear that the convenience of the channel is so well engrained into the consumer’s psyche now and is therefore here to stay.”
While fears have been voiced that further local – or national – lockdowns could prove deeply problematic for some retailers, especially those struggling to recover from the first lockdown, the British government has announced that retailers would not be forced to close in the event of harsher restrictions.
Paul added: “As we enter the all-important ‘golden quarter’ – when many retailers make the majority of their annual revenue – the fight for survival couldn’t be more intense. Close attention has to be paid to how players choose to tackle key events, like Black Friday, within a consumer landscape that has changed entirely.”