British high street set for a cracker of a Christmas

British consumers are expected to spend freely this Christmas but, practical presents will still top festive shopping lists according to a survey of high street retailers by Barclays.

More than half of retailers (52 per cent) feel more confident about Christmas trading with the majority expecting spending (55 per cent) to be up compared with last year. Two thirds of retailers (69 per cent) believe practical presents will be the order of the day while only a third (31 per cent) expect shoppers to spend on more frivolous and novelty gifts as consumers remain watchful of the wider economic climate.

The survey also found that more than half of retailers (55 per cent) are expecting a very “Appy” Christmas with sales made using mobile devices and tablets predicted to enjoy a rapid rise as shoppers continue to migrate towards digital devices. As a result click & collect will also increase in popularity – up by well over a third compared with last year – helping consumers and retailers overcome the tricky last mile of delivery.

Digital gizmos and gadgets mean that trading won’t stop when the shops close on Christmas Eve either. Nearly 65 per cent of retailers believe online traffic will rise by at least 11 per cent on Christmas Day, compared with last year. The first surge of online activity will be shortly after Christmas dinner between 3pm and 4pm, before it peaks between 8pm and 10pm on Christmas night.

Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays said: “Christmas Day may be one of only two days a year when retailers are not physically able to throw open their doors but, that won’t stop consumers bagging sales bargains online. This means more festive cheer for retailers looking to maximise sales during the all-important Christmas period”.

How to get the Christmas shopping to consumers’ doors, particularly presents bought online, remains the biggest headache for retailers with almost half of those surveyed (45 per cent) worried about delivery. This is closely followed by concerns over whether websites will cope with the anticipated increase in festive traffic (43 per cent). The weather, which caused considerable disruption to Christmas trade two years ago, is mentioned by around a third (30 per cent).

Richard Lowe continued: “There will always be the odd hiccup to Christmas trade but, there is no reason to believe that this Christmas will not be a success for retailers and consumers”. 

Websites will be under no greater pressure than on Mega Monday, traditionally the busiest online shopping day of the year. Nearly two thirds of high street retailers (63 per cent) expect website traffic to increase by 11 per cent on December 2nd.

When it comes to what will be wrapped up under the Christmas tree, mobile devices and techie gadgets (21 per cent) and beauty products (19 per cent) are set to be the most popular purchases followed by clothing (11.5 per cent). 

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