Unwrapping the Future: Forecast of festive trading

period trends across the UK

Download the 2022 vs 2019 High Street data at the end of this article.

As the 2023 festive season approaches, the trading period in the UK is poised for unique developments. These predictions, shaped by prior trends and current conditions, offer insights into what to anticipate during this significant time of the year. While uncertainties persist, our Christmas predictions provide a glimpse into the probable dynamics of the upcoming holiday season across the UK.  

Using VI’s mobility data alongside Experian’s demographic data we analyse key factors, including early shopping habits, the influence of e-commerce, and the shift in consumer demographics and spending power, are expected to mold the retail and leisure landscape. Additionally, the role of technology and the expanding appeal of local, artisanal shopping experiences promise to further redefine the Christmas trading period. The fusion of these elements will influence how retailers and consumers navigate this critical time, underlining the importance of adaptability and foresight.

Extended Shopping Season:

Christmas shopping is likely to begin earlier than ever. With the ongoing uncertainty in the economy and the desire to spread the financial burden, consumers may start their holiday shopping well in advance of December. Retailers will respond by launching their Christmas promotions and sales earlier in the year to capture these early birds.

Online Dominance Continues:

E-commerce’s stronghold on holiday shopping will persist and drive a decline in footfall to physical stores for household goods, electronics and clothing compared to pre-covid periods over the black Friday discount period.

Experiential Gifting:

The trend of giving experiences rather than physical gifts will continue to grow. With people valuing memorable experiences, leisure activities, such as spa days, theatre tickets, or cooking classes, will be popular choices for Christmas gifts. With Experian consumer data showing shoppers cutting back on travel, both international and domestic, leisure and entertainment spend looks to remain strong.  We expect to see an even greater uptick in the leisure and entertainment sectors around the festive period than we saw in 2022 as a result.

Last-Minute Rush:

While early shopping will be prevalent, there will still be a significant last-minute rush. Shoppers who missed out on early deals or simply thrive under the pressure of a tight deadline will flock to stores in the days leading up to Christmas.

Spending Power Squeeze:

Despite early holiday shopping, many UK consumers may feel the pinch of rising living costs, inflation, and increased interest rates. Almost all income groups expect to be spending less on non-essential goods this year, but it’s city and urban dwellers who are currently spending less AND expect to be cutting back further in future.  As a result, they are likely to be more budget-conscious during the Christmas trading period and we may see a decline in visits from lower income groups to physical stores this Christmas.

Demographic Shopping Shift:

A noticeable shift in demographics may impact shopping patterns. Younger consumers, particularly those in the 25-34 age group, may continue to be early and online shoppers, while those aged 55-64 could maintain their preference for traditional, in-store shopping. Across all ages, its renters in particular who are looking to cut back across all spending categories the most this Christmas.

Diverse Shopping Destinations:

In 2023, consumers will continue to diversify their shopping destinations and provide a boost to smaller local economies. Beyond traditional high street stores, more shoppers will explore local boutiques, pop-up markets, and independent retailers for unique and personalized gifts. The idea of “shopping small” and supporting local businesses will gain traction, especially in the wake of recent economic challenges.

This year we are continuing to track the High Streets of the busiest cities across the UK – identifying which cities have recovered post Covid and which have fallen behind.  Our 2023 mobility data, will be released next month but in advance of this you can download last years data for free.  

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