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EDITORIAL Insights into how shoppers are spending ahead of peak trading

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There’s a nuanced picture of how shoppers are spending at the moment in two sets of retail sales figures out today. The BRC sees shoppers spending less online in October than they did a year ago, while in-store and overall retail sales have grown – but at a more muted level that has not kept pace with inflation. Barclaycard also sees below inflation growth on spending, both on essential and non-essential products. Meanwhile the IMRG says while online spending fell in October compared to a year earlier, it grew by almost 12% compared to the previous month – suggesting that shoppers have already started their Christmas spending. 

Looking ahead to peak, the BRC sees shoppers delaying their spending on large ticket items, but warns that peak trading may be “more gloom than glitter” this year, while IMRG suggests that spending is underway – but in value rather than premium categories. It predicts that shoppers will spend less this November – at what’s historically been the peak of pre-Christmas online shopping – than they did last year. Last year, of course, shoppers were optimistic for a special Christmas in the wake of Covid-19 lockdowns the previous year, and keen to buy in the light of Covid-delayed supply chains. 

Two studies into how shoppers plan to buy this Christmas may offer more insights. Sensormatic Soutions suggests that 50% have already started their Christmas shopping, and are buying early in the light of the cost-of-living crisis – while 45% are buying gifts before prices go up. A study from Shopiago suggests shoppers are now happier to give – and receive – secondhand gifts, including for children.

That shift to value may be reflected as Primark sees its business return close to normal levels in a year that its shops were fully open in the wake of lockdowns. The retailer, owned by ABF, says it also expects to make  “significant progress” in its digital development in the coming year as it launches its trial click and collect service in the UK and launches its new improved website, already up and running in the UK, across its international markets. 

But mid-market Joules this week says sales have been behind expectations over the late summer and early autumn as shoppers spent less online, although slightly more in-store, than expected in a challenging environment. The fashion and lifestyle retailer is also working on financing options – from an equity raise or a CVA to a bridging loan –  as lending deadlines approach. 

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