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Christmas shopping now all-year round: research

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Festive shopping is now an all-year-round event, according to a new study that found a significant 15% of shoppers bought presents throughout the 12 months preceding Christmas 2011. That’s significant for multichannel retailers at a time when the amount spent online rose sharply over Christmas, and the amount spent on the high street fell. It also came in a year when, said research company Intersperience, the way UK consumers shop for presents was completely different from any previous year.

The research from Intersperience, which quizzed 1,000 UK shoppers, found that while the average spend per shopper rose by £9 to £299, online shopping spends rose by £25 to £188. In contrast, high street spending fell by an average of £13 per shopper to £166.

And at the same time, shoppers were on the lookout for year-round bargains. Some 13% said they started their shopping ‘much earlier than last year’ while 26% said they started ‘a little bit earlier than last year,’ bringing the percentage who said they started earlier than last year to 39%.

“Discount coupons were much in evidence and we found people have taken to seeking out bargains at all times of the year, buying presents cheaply off-season and keeping them hidden until December,” said Paul Hudson, chief executive of Intersperience. “We are as a nation, in effect, Christmas shopping all-year round now.”

But at the same time 18% said they ‘bought everything last minute in the sales.’ Of those last minute shoppers, it seems more were older shoppers. Some 27% of over-25s left all of their shopping to the last minute but only 9% of under-25s did.

Also in evidence, said Hudson, was that: “This is the year that the mobile phone changed the way we shop. With people very conscious of their reduced spending power this year, they have chosen the latest technology to help them find the best deals.

“One in three used their phones to check competitor prices, look for reviews of products, search ratings and check specifications. Almost 20% of people called up rivals’ websites while standing in a high street store looking at the item they wanted to buy. And 30% of them went on to purchase those gifts online from somebody else’s website while standing in the shop.”

However, while the amount spent online went up, the proportion of the population shopping via ecommerce fell, the study found. While 81% bought online in 2010, only 72% did in 2011. And of those internet shoppers, 51% said they had problems with stock shortages or delivery delays. One in 10 said their gifts didn’t arrive in time for Christmas.

Hudson said: “Although the proportion of people buying online has fallen, the number of transactions per shopper has increased and the value of goods bought online has also risen. That means there has been overall headline growth in online sales.

“It tends to be the over-25s who prefer to purchase presents online. Younger consumers use the internet and their smart phones for research but more of them buy in stores. When we asked them why, 41% said they worried about order delivery, a far higher figure than among older consumers.”

The research reflects retailers’ figures showing a buoyant online Christmas. In line with that picture, mobile accessories retailer Mobile Fun yesterday reported its first £1m month, with consumers spending £1.1m with it in December 2011. The orders came across its UK, German, French, Dutch and Spanish websites, with interational orders rising by 93% and sales by 86%.

Mohammed Hussain, managing director of Mobile Fun, said: “Our teams across Europe have delivered a strong performance over the festive period and we’re thrilled that sales exceeded £1 million in December. The continued growth of the smartphone and tablet markets has made this an incredible Christmas for Mobile Fun.

“Our customers especially appreciated fast delivery for last-minute shopping – this year, we were able to ship orders placed up to 7pm on December 23 for pre-Christmas delivery.”

“Despite a weak retail environment in the UK, our outlook for 2012 is positive: we believe that our strong product proposition, combined with our successful international expansion strategy will enable us to continue to capitalise on the opportunity offered by the growth of the smartphone and tablet markets.”

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