This weekend I was in London’s Oxford Street.
The lights had been switched on with the usual glitz and glamour earlier that week and inspired by the Christmas spirit, but with a keen eye on my purse and budgeting I began to Christmas shop in earnest.
Within three hours half of my Christmas shopping was done and thanks to some great gift ranges in-store this year it was with presents that both suited each individual and, mostly, fell within budget.
Such early Christmas shopping is something many of us say we will do, but never actually get round to doing.
Coupled with that is the belief by many shoppers, and borne out of the actions of retailers themselves, that if they wait a little longer then deals will be better as retailers panic and cut prices pre-Christmas.
But what "seasoned" retail journalists and shoppers know is that retailers have cut back on orders over the past few years and are both product and promotions planning much better, so that such promotions are no longer about clearing stock but simply inspiring shoppers love for a bargain and getting them to up-spend as a result.
The retail industry is now fully focussed on Christmas with only seven weeks until the Boxing Day Sales will start.
As ever, price, promotion and customer experience will be key. Multichannel will also be vital over the period as it continues to offer the instant purchase without the fighting the crowds element.
At its third quarter results announcements last week fashion retailer Next revealed that online sales were cannibalising sales in stores “to a certain extent”. With a service that now offers delivery the next day if placed by 9pm the day before that is hardly surprising. Despite the cannibilisation however, it said it would continue with openings – adding a further 15 Next Home stores as well as a second Home and Garden store, a new concept it unveiled in the summer.
Indeed finding new concepts that work is key. The last fortnight also saw M&S reveal it was to open a new model convenience food store selling hot and cold takeaway food. The M&S Food on the Move concept opens later this week at London’s Baker Street station.
John Lewis has also revealed plans to open another smaller format store in York after previously announcing a similar store for Exeter.
The retail market is a tough place and this week claimed the scalp of its latest and most high profile name of late after confirmation today that Carphone Warehouse was to close its Best Buy business – the 11 strong chain stores that it launched two years ago in a joint partnership with the US electricals giant and had sold its interest in the business. Its interim results, brought forward after the Best Buy news leaked, showed that Best Buy UK lost £46.7 million at EBIT level.
Tomorrow will see latest figures from the BRC-KPMG’s Retail Sales monitor as well as the interim figures from M&S and full year results from Primark, which earlier this month revealed it was to open in Selfridges in perhaps the most significant marker of how the retail world must abandon old preconceptions to stay healthy.
Last week’s publication of the latest GB Consumer Confidence Survey from Nielsen and the BRC, showed that worried by high inflation and minimal wage growth two third of customers were worried by utility bills and planned to do what they could to save. Eighty six per cent believed the country was still in recession.
However the overall Consumer Confidence Index was up one point in Q3 compared to the previous quarter and it claimed that the number of consumers now feeling negative about the states of their personal finances was at its lowest level (58%) for more than a year.
After her mega-Christmas shopping spend this writer isn’t one of them!