The 5 new ways of Christmas
Almost every consumer we spoke to reported that online has become a significant part of their Christmas shopping. For those who could remember a world before the internet, this was seen to have brought great benefits – allowing them to feel ‘on top of Christmas’ sooner and making memories of snaking in-store queues seem very distant. Even worries about buying online looking like a less thoughtful or ‘lazy option’ are shrinking rapidly – this year’s popular Amazon TV advert, and its smiling cardboard boxes, supporting the sense that just as much affection can be expressed via this channel as any other.
With time saved online, it means visits to physical shops are taking on an evolved form – being more about experiences than a slog through your Christmas ‘to buy’ list. How has this change manifested on the high street?
1. Hard work done there's plenty of time for refreshment breaks
With physical shopping trips now less about buying lots, there’s more scope to make a day of it by way of food and coffee stops – taking the chance to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy time with family and friends. Many outlets have intensified/reacted to this shift by introducing festive menu items, selling Christmas gifts and adapting their uniforms for the occasion. Some even add extra feel-good by doing their bit for charity.
"Christmas shopping at its best"
"Well deserved Starbucks"
"Coffee and gifts under one roof!"
"50p to charity"
"Lovely food gifts... seems nicer than buying in a supermarket"
2. Thumbs up for destinations that immerse you in Christmas spirit
Consumers are increasingly drawn to places they think make a real effort to add Christmas sparkle. Lights are a much-mentioned high point, with ‘switching on’ ceremonies often turning into events that span a whole afternoon/early evening. Beyond this, Christmas markets, buy-local days and Santa’s grottos are all well-loved elements. And whilst there may be some gripes along the lines of ‘who’s paying for all these fancy touches?’ towns that do nothing come in for much more criticism. Retails parks are also thought to look sterile in comparison.
"A great day out with the kids... and saw the main man!"
"Lights switch on is massive in St Albans nows... it's grown and grown"
"I like to support local... I like the idea of people making their own way in life"
3. Destination department stores turning shopping into theatre
Flagship department stores are seen to be continually upping the ante in order to make themselves Christmas destinations – often carrying wider advertising campaigns through into their shops and developing joined-up omnichannel experiences. Ever-more keen to share their best festive moments on social media, consumers are seeking out stores that possess ‘look what I saw’ drama – simultaneously boosting the chances that other people will make the same pilgrimage.
"The Moz house was very good"
"The biggest santa I'd ever seen"
"Harrods was so OTT, it was amazing"
"Fortnum and Mason just oozes tradition!"
4. Brands with arresting back-stories flourish
When most people have got most of the things they need, Christmas increasingly means trying to find truly distinctive gifts. Significantly, much of the sense of getting something different is about more than the product alone. Instead, the item’s back-story, the experience of buying and what the purchase says about you become important factors. Stores that play successfully to this trend grow to be about more than ‘grab and go’ functionality. They take shoppers into the brand’s world and hold their attention long enough to sweep them up in their back-story.
5. The rise of personalisation as you shop
A big development shoppers have picked up on this year is the growth of personalisation – something that has now spread from the specialists to the mass market. It chimes with the times because it means you can buy from the big players and still feel your gift has that increasingly craved distinctiveness.