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PEAK 2020 John Lewis launches its Christmas ad; Tesco shoppers queue for Christmas delivery slots; plus the latest research on changing shopper behaviour

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The John Lewis ad is out – so peak Christmas shopping must be underway, albeit under  lockdown conditions until December 2. Today we start our customary rolling news approach to pre-Christmas trading, bringing together the key stories from the news and research about how ecommerce and multichannel retailers are faring during Peak 2020. This story will be updated regularly.

John Lewis kickstarts the Christmas ad season

John Lewis today launched its Christmas ad on its website and across social channels. At the time of writing the Give a Little Love ad, which was launched today and aims to raise £4m for the FareShare and Home-Start charities which are helping families hit by the pandemic, had more than half a million views. 

Pippa Wicks, executive director of John Lewis, said: “We recently set out our ambition for our business to be a force for good – so we decided that this year was the year to break the mould and do something different. We have a long tradition of helping support the communities which we serve, so as we launch one of the best loved assets, our Christmas ad, it’s fitting to take this one step further by working hand in hand with two incredible charities supporting families in need.

“We were humbled by the kindness shown by the British public during the pandemic. We want this campaign to be uplifting and to inspire everyone to give some kindness in their own way this Christmas, especially to those who need it most. The pandemic has proved that it’s our small acts of love and kindness, particularly in challenging times, that captures what it is to be human; and when one small act of kindness multiplies it can have a lasting impact.”

Peter Grigg, chief executive at Home-Start, said: “Families are running on empty. The pandemic has been hard for all families, but it’s been toughest on those already facing challenges around mental health, low incomes, and other challenges in their lives. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness shown in our communities during the pandemic, but I know there is so much more to do. That is why I am so proud that John Lewis and Waitrose are supporting Home-Start with this amazing campaign. With the help of John Lewis and Waitrose partners and customers we will be able to work with more families when they need us most.”

John Lewis is an Elite retailer in RXUK Top500 research.

Aldi winning the most-viewed Christmas ad race

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, chief executive of Socialbakers, says that Aldi is currently leading the list of most-viewed Christmas ads, with 18m views, followed by M&S with 1.8 million. John Lewis, it says, won a million views after just two hours. He says that in Peak 2020, marketers must take customers stuck at home a journey of product discovery and purchase, from TV ads to digital channels – as this won’t be happening on high streets this year.

He said: “The message across this year’s ads is that this Christmas, people must make what they can of the situation. The same is true for brands. Based on the trends we’ve observed over the year, this Christmas consumers will be looking for authentic content from the brands they love – content that resonates with how they are feeling, whether that’s quiet resignation or a desire to be transported to a magical world. More than ever, brands will need to be tuned in to consumer sentiment if they want their products to make it under the Christmas tree.

“So far we’ve seen brands like Marks and Spencer and John Lewis using their Christmas ad as an opportunity to spread goodwill by donating and encouraging charitable giving. Gestures like these will resonate better than ever with audiences, as many people are facing hardships of their own. Other brands are sticking to known themes to build familiarity and loyalty with their online community, like Aldi’s much-loved Kevin the Carrot, who we first got to know back in 2016.    

“Others have opted for inspirational stories that address the challenges we’re facing this year. From Amazon’s passionate ballerina who performs her cancelled ballet recital to an audience from her rooftop, to the simple joy of Argos’ Daisy and Lucy making Christmas magic for their family, the message is one of hope – hope that we can all make the best out of Christmas this year.”

Shoppers queue for Christmas Tesco online delivery slots

Tesco, which has also pledged to support FareShare – with donations worth £4m – had to open an online virtual waiting room today amidst complaints of long wait for its Christmas online delivery slots. The retailer has reportedly apologised for the wait, which came as shoppers aired their grievances on Twitter today.

How retailers and shoppers are adapting peak trading to shoppers’ new habits: study

Most retailers have adapted their strategies to the way that shoppers now want to buy in Peak 2020, and to their financial concerns, new research suggests.

A study from digital and technology consultancy Capgemini found that 83% have introduced new delivery options this year, with 44% introducing free delivery and 37% click and collect or pick-up from the curbside. Nearly half (46%) are offering more discounts, while 42% have brought in single-day and timed discounts. 

The research questioned 851 retail managers in six markets including the UK, US, Germany and France, in companies with more than 250 employees. It also questioned 6,588 shoppers in the same markets.

It found that 51% of shoppers say they will buy more online this peak shopping season, a sentiment to which 91% of retailers have responded with steps to improve their online offering, while 47% have improved their website or online site, 37% have increased their web traffic capacity and 20% have introduced new virtual shopping experiences.

More than half (52%) say they will offer greater discounts online and in-store, while 31% plan to offer a wider range online. 

Despite an appetite to buy online this Christmas, only 11% expect to spend more than usual on Black Friday, and 34% say they will spend less – partly because of having less disposable income (44%). Even in markets where shops are set to be open on Black Friday, many shoppers expect to avoid them, with in-store shopping in the US set to fall by 15 percentage points. The study projects that 27% of holiday purchases will be made in shops online, and 33% will only go to shops when they know what they want to buy, and 32% planning to research in advance. The study found that shoppers would prioritise essentials, with impulse spending likely to be lower. 

Steve Hewett, VP global lead for retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said the forecast for this year’s holiday sales was particularly complicated in the UK. 

He said: “National lockdowns have resulted in a large number of people building up savings, but 3 in 5 UK consumers we surveyed had no intention on using this on increased holiday spending. While it remains unclear just how much people will spend, it’s the changes around how people will shop that appear more certain.

“The second lockdown will inevitably lead to further reduction in impulse purchases and will reduce demand in categories closely linked to business, leisure and entertainment. And with 50% of UK consumers we surveyed planning to make more use of online in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas – even categories where demand will be strong will face a tough fight to capture the attention and spend of customers that have shifted online through choice or necessity. Retailers that have managed to improve their online operations, who have put in place new technology and processes to provide better experiences online and in-stores and who have quickly grown their digital marketing muscles will be best placed to capture sales this holiday season, but will have also set themselves onto a stronger footing for the inevitably digital led shopping future ahead.”

More retailers now live with Black Friday promotions 

More retailers launched Black Friday promotions over the last week, according to the IMRG, which is also seeing evidence of that Christmas shopping is underway. That’s  reflected in accelerating sales growth over the week to yesterday (Thursday), while clothing sales have returned to growth (+2% year-on-year) as Black Friday sales have launched.

The retail trade association looked ahead to Black Friday in a webinar this week, reiterating its forecast of this week that online sales would grow by as much as 45% on Black Friday itself. 

IMRG is tracking 320 ecommerce websites throughout peak trading to see how early retailers launch their Black Friday sales. In the last week, 37 – or 11.5% – of those sites had specific offers available, up from 4% last week. That, said Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMGR represented a “massive increase” compared to the same time last year. As yet, health and beauty is the most heavily represented category – with eight retailers currently running Black Friday promotions – followed by clothing (6) and home and garden (4) –perhaps as people are preparing to meet outside.  


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