Today is expected to be the biggest in-store shopping day of the week after a weekend in which more shoppers than expected bought online. But figures from Worldpay and eBay suggest online retailers can't relax yet - with spending over the internet set to continue right over Christmas.
Visitor numbers fell across the 'Panic Saturday' weekend, down by 4% compared to the same time last year, according to retail intelligence specialist FootFall
, which suggests that many shoppers were still confident about buying online over the weekend to receive gifts in time for Christmas. Data from delivery management software business MetaPack suggests consumers are now starting to use express delivery to guarantee delivery ahead of Christmas Day. The proportion of express deliveries has risen from 20% of orders earlier in the month to 45% in the last week, and is likely to rise in coming days.
Overall delivery volumes are currently around 12% ahead of last year.
But the pendulum is expected to swing back towards stores this week, as gift buyers finally turn their backs on the internet to hit the high streets. Today [Tuesday December 22] is expected to be the busiest day, with store footfall up by 54% compared to the daily average.
“As Christmas falls on a Friday, there have only been three Mondays in December 2015, whereas the past three years (2012 – 2014) had four Mondays, making the shift to in-store shopping even more marked," said Steve Richardson, UK regional director at FootFall. "What’s more, as consumers might choose to take off a few days ahead of Christmas, this could also mean we see more shopper traffic on the High Street and in shopping centres, as consumers feel they aren’t reliant on online shopping alone.
“Based on trends from the last six years, and with this year’s footfall set to follow the same pattern as 2009, when Christmas Day also fell on a Friday, we expect Tuesday 22 December to be the busiest day in terms of shopper traffic, up 54% on the daily average and 2.2% year-on-year.”
But although pre-Christmas traffic is now shifting towards the high street, retailers will still see orders placed throughout the Christmas break. An eBay study suggests that the Christmas trading period will be vital for a third (31%) of online small businesses, with 28% braced for a last-minute surge in sales.
Supplementary figures from eBay Advertising suggest that shoppers panic in the final days before Christmas while also starting to shop for themselves, reflected in last minute eBay searches by men for dresses – more than seven searches a minute between 11pm and midnight on Christmas Eve – and by women for coats – 10 searches a minute in that same hour.
“Consumer behaviour in the run up to Christmas is much more varied than many brands recognise, and success is not as simple as allocating marketing budget to the first three weeks in December," said Phuong Nguyen, director, eBay Advertising UK. "Our data shows that there are rich opportunities for brands to engage with purchase-ready consumers online right up to midnight on Christmas Eve – and beyond into the final days of the year.”
Indeed, new Worldpay
research suggests that £18.6m was spent on Christmas Day itself last year. Spending started from 8am last year, growing hour by hour until 1pm, when Worldpay processed £1m in online transactions, and £3m was spent over the course of the long Christmas lunch.
Peak spending was at 8pm, when UK shoppers spent £1.3m, while £973,000 changed hands in the last hour of the day ahead of the Boxing Day rush.
Dave Hobday, UK managing director of Worldpay, said: “Traditionally sales have been negligible on Christmas Day with the vast majority of bricks and mortar stores closed.
"However, our findings indicate the increasing need for retailers to adopt an ‘always on’ attitude. Online and m-commerce means consumers expect a unified shopping experience - regardless of the touchpoint - even over second helpings of Christmas pudding.”
Amazon.co.uk expects this will be its busiest Christmas Day yet, with sales on previous December 25th up more than sixfold over the last 5 years. It points to 8.52pm as the peak spending hour, as shoppers flock to the Boxing Day sale, set to begin at 4pm on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve will see last minute shopping between 11pm and midnight with high levels of orders of printable and emailed gift cards. Amazon also predicts December 25 will be its busiest day ever for digital downloads.
“Digital streaming and downloads are extremely popular on Christmas Day because of the number of new devices that are given as gifts,” said Jay Marine, vice president of Amazon Video EU. “The moment that people receive their new device, they want Kindle books to read, apps to play, music to listen to, and movies and TV shows to watch. With more digital content available on Amazon than ever before, we expect Christmas Day to break digital download records.”