For the fourth year running, shoppers are entering the season of goodwill with a certain amount of angst. 2012 has had its obvious highlights, but household budgets remain under pressure, whether because of reduced incomes or because of increased prices. Getting the most out of their money is just as important for shoppers at this time of year, which means that retailers and brand owners will still have to work hard at Christmas to persuade shoppers to part with their hard earned cash.
Based on what we have heard from shoppers over the years, one of the biggest barriers to purchasing of Christmas products in grocery stores is the lack of festivity in-store. This might run at odds with the way shoppers are quick to criticise when they see Christmas stock in-store before November, but scratch beneath the surface and the issue is clear. A lot of shoppers buy Christmas produce in grocery stores as they do their main grocery shop. Whilst they may gradually pick up necessary items as they go, the fact is they are in blinkered, grocery shop mode, so they easily overlook much of what is on offer, or actively avoid the seasonal aisle until they are ready to throw themselves in. This is a big missed opportunity for the grocery sector.
Shoppers may be cautious, but Christmas is still the biggest event of the year for most UK households, and no one wants to feel they have scrimped on the festivities even if they want to keep to a budget. The point is that to encourage shoppers to spend means getting them into the Christmas frame of mind in the actual store – even if only for a brief moment of time before they re-focus on the main grocery shop they came in for. And the best way of getting shoppers into the Christmas frame of mind is to bring Christmas into the store.
This goes beyond a few hanging decorations, or the odd Christmas tree in the entrance. For many shoppers, the effort they see being put into other seasonal events outweighs that of Christmas. “If they can make this much effort with Halloween, why can’t they do the same with Christmas?” is a common complaint we hear from shoppers. Getting the range and merchandising right is a key component of a successful seasonal event – shoppers often talk about wanting a “one-stop-shop” approach. So easy access to gift-wrap and cards; food and drink ideas; and something a bit different for smaller / gesture gifting. This makes ranging difficult for retailers, given Christmas produce spans from cards to cranberry sauce to roast potatoes – but if shoppers are offered Christmas on a plate it pulls the blinkers off and encourages browsing far more effectively than a raft of promotions.
Just because it is Christmas, and just because so many households in the UK love to have this one big celebration each year, doesn’t mean shoppers will spend. They need persuading just as much at this time of year as at any other. Christmas is no time for complacency – and there’s less than six weeks left to make the most of the business opportunity!
Danielle Pinnington is managing director at shopper research agency Shoppercentric