Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Aldridge on Retail: Maintaining Control Is Key to a Merry Christmas

Magazine article Marketing

Amanda Aldridge on Retail: Maintaining Control Is Key to a Merry Christmas

Article excerpt

Christmas - a time for rejoicing, eating, drinking and making merry. With all this on the horizon, who can fail to enjoy the festive season? Well if you believe everything you read in the papers, retailers must dread Christmas.

Christmas, they say, is the single most important shopping period for most retailers. For many, it can determine whether their year is seen as a success or a failure. Yet the great British public continue to confound and confuse in equal measure. Will they spend more or less? Will they leave it later than last year? What effect will Christmas falling on a Saturday have? Why can't they just be predictable?

Let's be clear about one thing: the customers will come. They may not arrive in a nice, orderly fashion, pleasantly spread out throughout December - the ugly last-minute rushes of recent years will probably be repeated again - but they will come.

Last week's Retail Sales Monitor from KPMG and the British Retail Consortium showed that like-for-like sales during November were 0.2% down on the same period last year. As the study has recorded a negative figure only three times since the start of 2002, this decline received a lot of attention. Yet total sales grew by 2.4%, highlighting that retail outlets are still being opened, more sales are being made, and the British shopper is still turning out in force.

Since the start of 2002, the monthly rise in total sales has ranged from 2.1% to 10.3%, so at the moment we are at the lower end of that range. But there is nothing to suggest that Christmas 2004 will be a retail disaster.

The real issue all retailers have to address is timing. Just when will that big spending spurt come? Maybe it is indicative of our hectic lifestyles or the fact that so much shopping can be done conveniently under one roof in one visit, but the answer is as late as possible.

A survey commissioned by KPMG in early December showed that 44% of shoppers intend to leave their present-buying until the week before Christmas. A further 13% expect to complete it all on Christmas Eve. At the time of the survey, almost 25% of respondents had done no shopping whatsoever. Only 14% had finished it already.

So what can retail businesses do to cope with this frustrating trend? …

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