Where Did All The Cheer Go This Christmas?

The Christmas period again seems to have signalled an increase in year on year sales for the eighth year in succession. For some the increase may not have been as strong as for others, but top-line sales have seen good growth overall.

Yet again this Christmas, the Ho! Ho! Ho! has been diminished in the relentless push for More! More! More! sales.

Christmas for the average shopper is becoming less about celebration and more about duty. Christmas is increasingly less about the pleasure of giving and more about the functional requirements of the time of year and surviving its demands on the family. With the economic equivalent of full employment, those people lucky enough to hold down fulltime work increasingly feel the pressure on their most precious resource – time.

Each year “The Christmas Doughnut” – where shopping peaks early and late in the season leaving a hole in the middle – becomes more extreme. Mums who plan buy early or throughout the year and put it away. But the last minute shoppers are on the increase. These are the full time workers whose time is precious to them. Who feel there are too many demands on their time. People who really need reasons which cause them to re-think when and how they shop or they’ll just do what’s convenient because that is their only choice.

Is it any wonder gift cards are averaging more than 30% compound growth rates every Christmas?

This year the joy of Christmas was sporadic at best and confined to a few retailers who delivered genuine Christmas experiences. Even the best of them did this inconsistently.

The Christmas season should be a runway for the entire year. Instead it is becoming increasingly the harvest time to meet annual targets. It is a time when we prove to our customers how much we care for their custom, understand their needs and align our delivery to make it easier and more enjoyable for them to achieve their outcomes.

Without the experiential overlay, why would busy full-time workers invest valuable time shopping ahead of when they absolutely had to? Why would they change their behaviour when there seems little reward for the effort?

When you have observed Christmas shopping in the United States, Europe and even Asia you know how wonderful shopping can be. Even in Hong Kong and Shanghai – countries without deep cultural ties to the Christmas tradition – Christmas shopping is entertainment. You want to spend time in the shops. You want to spend money while you are there. The goods are easy to buy and you can get a lot done and enjoy it every time you shop.

But most of all, it re-confirms to you why you love shopping and how good shopping can be not just at Christmas, but throughout the year. In retail we become purely transactional at our peril. It is time for us to reflect on how Christmas can set up the year rather than close it out.