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EDITORIAL What do Christmas sales figures say about how customer behaviour is changing?

Image: Fotolia

In today’s InternetRetailing newsletter we report as the results start to come in from the 2019 peak trading period. And it appears that different retailers have had very different experiences this year. Some, like Holland & Barrett, Dunelm, Naked Wines and Oxfam, are reporting healthy sales growth.

And Shoe Zone, reporting its full-year figures this week, is the second retailer of the week – after Mountain Warehouse – to suggest that ‘doomsayers’ predicting the death of the high street are wrong.

But John Lewis’ managing director is leaving following poor Christmas trading, at M&S sales are down, while Topps Tiles and Card Factory both cite general election uncertainty as they report lower than expected sales. And Game says it will close 40 of its shops unless it can reduce rents. 

Other retailers are dealing with issues that originated closer to home: Joules had trouble with stock availability over Christmas, while a Dixons Carphone business has been fined £500,000 after an in-store cyber attack meant the details of millions of customers were stolen. The ICO says that’s down to failings in its IT security – and advises organisations to make sure theirs is in order.

Certainly it’s been a troubled time for many retailers – but a good one for others. What lessons can we learn? It’s early as yet to come to any firm conclusions, but as yet those that have done well seem to have either invested in giving customers the products they really want to buy, delivered with good service across channels, while selling them at lower prices.

It may well be that shoppers are buying less than they did because they still aren’t confident they have the money to spend. Perhaps, too, they are buying less for environmental reasons – Oxfam certainly seems to think so. Minimalism is gaining traction, while green campaigners are urging shoppers to think before they buy. The scenario that retailers may need to respond to could well be evolving into one in which shoppers spend less but focus on quality when they do so.

Today’s guest comment comes from Scott Lindsay of eShopWorld, who looks at some of the trends and innovations that are affecting ecommerce. There’s so much to report on today that we’re skipping today’s instalment in our predictions series, but it should be back on Tuesday.

Image: Fotolia

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