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More than a quarter of UK shoppers plan to start shopping for Christmas earlier in 2020

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More than a quarter of UK shoppers are planning to start shopping for Christmas earlier than they did last year, a new study suggests.

Research from eBay Advertising questioned 2,064 UK adults who celebrate Christmas and found that 27% expected to get their festive buying underway sooner this year. More than a third (34%) had already bought some Christmas items this year, with Christmas cards (17%), wrapping paper (16%) Christmas presents (13%) and Christmas decorations (8%) already stocked up. 

eBay has also detected 44% more searches for ‘Christmas’ or ‘xmas’ made on its UK site between April and May this year than took place over the same period last year. 

As to what they’ll be buying, 56% told researchers that they had taken up a new hobby or interest during Covid-19 lockdown, while 31% said they’d seen a family member doing the same. Three quarters (75%) of those who have taken up a new hobby intend to continue with it for at least the rest of the year. The most popular hobbies were gardening and baking (each 20%). Searches for ‘gardening’ peaked on eBay UK  in week five of lockdown (+137% from the week before lockdown), while searches for ‘baking’ peaked in week six on the same reference point.

Harmony Murphy, head of advertising UK at eBay UK, said: “In a year steeped with uncertainty, the only thing we know for sure is that this year’s Christmas will be an incredibly important retail milestone. And, with so many events, occasions and gatherings cancelled this year, it’s easy to understand why Brits are already excited and planning ahead for a more thoughtful and meaningful celebration. 

“However, with so much having changed this year – from plans and priorities to interests and incomes – brands now face a huge challenge as they look to make their Christmas campaigns relevant to a transformed consumer. If they haven’t already, marketers must start planning and putting Christmas strategies into action – and use the freshest insights and smartest technology to reach the right people with the most meaningful messages.”

Many shoppers will be thinking about their finances when they buy. More than a third (37%) said that income or financial security would influence what they decide to buy or how they spend on gifts and celebrations in the run up to Christmas. Last year UK consumers spent an average of £551 on Christmas shopping and celebrations, but this year almost half (44%) of consumers are planning to spend the same this year and a third (31%) plan to spend less.

As consumers look ahead to Christmas, 57% of respondents said that one of their top priorities is to spend time with loved ones. Meanwhile, 37% intend on putting more thought into the presents they give this year, compared to previous years.

Pauline Robson, managing partner at MediaCom, said: “Whilst the buzzword as we went into lockdown was ‘unprecedented’, the word as we emerge is ‘flexibility’. The approach to Christmas this year is definitely one of caution, flexibility and adaptability. People’s habits and behaviours have changed and are adapting as restrictions ease and the trajectory of the virus over the coming months is uncertain. Scenario planning is key to ensure that we can adapt to any changes that may happen.

“From an audience perspective it really can’t be one size fits all – there have been many different lived experiences of lockdown and there are many different approaches to coming out of it. These will, to a large extent, shape the kind of Christmas that people will have. Up to date audience data and insight are crucial to ensure that Christmas campaigns can flex to changing consumer needs and will resonate with audiences.”

eBay has launched a new report – Christmas spend trends: the path to profit during a pandemic – outlining insights into consumers’ evolving attitudes and priorities and offering advice for advertisers.

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