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PEAK 2021 What shoppers want this Christmas: from sustainability to supply chain fears

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In today’s Peak 2021 round-up we’re reporting on what the latest data shows about how shoppers want to buy this Christmas.

Sustainability grows in importance

Shoppers are looking to brands and retailers to offer a more environmentally-friendly Christmas by cutting down on packaging and adding eco-friendly gifts to their range, a new study suggests.

A Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) survey, run by Opinium, questioned 2,000 UK adults and found that more than half (53%) of respondents who celebrate Christmas said they think doing so in an environmentally-friendly way is more important this year. 

Most (82%) say that companies use too much packaging, and that Amazon (-4pp to 48%) is the worst offender, with 78% wanting to see large companies do more to use sustainable packaging. Some 64% say that companies should be more transparent about the effect that Christmas products and services have on the environment, 

A year ago, a similar CIM study found that 62% of respondents said they wanted to see more done by large companies to promote sustainable packaging. 

In the absence of corporate action, many shoppers said they would act to make their own Christmas more sustainable, with 42% reusing Christmas decorations rather than buying new, 22% buying from local businesses, and 26% using a plastic reusable Christmas tree rather than a real one. Only 24% said they were not changing their behaviour to be more environmentally-friendly this year. 

Gemma Butler, marketing director and expert in sustainable marketing at CIM, says: ““Whilst we all love to share gifts with the ones we love, the environmental challenges facing society aren’t put on pause during the festive period – if anything we should be even more aware as we go into the season that feeds our unhealthy relationship with consumption. It’s clear from our research that consumers are increasingly conscious of the impact the festivities and its associated consumerism is having on the planet, and they’re expecting companies to be more transparent about it too. It’s time for brands to step up and rethink how we can celebrate the magic of Christmas without leaving a mountain of waste behind.”

Supply chain concerns

Four in 10 (40%) UK customers are concerned about supply chain issues affecting the availability of presents they want to buy this Christmas, new research suggests. 

Digital gift card company Prezzee interviewed 2000 UK adults via OnePoll and found three in 10 (30%) struggled to find the perfect gift – while 42% were very surprised to learn that £42m of unwanted gifts end up in landfill. Some 72% of Generation Z respondents said they were concerned about the environmental impact of gift giving and nearly half (48%) say these concerns would affect what they buy at Christmas. Prezee found that’s encouraging 57% to give gift cards over cash. 

The mounting cost of online returns

Online purchases worth £3.9bn are set to be returned in January, says ParcelHero. The parcel comparison website says that more than 10% of all gifts will be sent back to the retailer after Christmas – but that shoppers will need to act quickly.  

ParcelHero head of consumer research David Jinks  says: ‘Shoppers are aware by now that they can return any online purchase up to 14 days after delivery with no quibbles, and any faulty store-bought or online item up to 30 days after purchase. Note that the no-quibble guarantee doesn’t cover non-faulty shop-bought items. Nonetheless, many of our favourite retailers do let us return any items, faulty or non-faulty, purchased online or in-store, for a lengthy period after Christmas. Others are more grudging.

“Typically, the most generous stores, such as Amazon, ASOS, Debenhams, Gap, The White Company and Warehouse, give until the end of January to return unwanted items for refund or exchange. In most cases, this covers almost all items bought from the beginning of November through to 24 December, though double-check the small print to be sure of the start date. For example, ASOS only includes items purchased from 8 November onwards.

“We think Watchshop is the shop to watch. Its Christmas returns period runs from 1 October through to 31 January. That’s a returns window of up to 122 days, which we think is particularly generous.

“In contrast, shoppers are going to have to be a lot quicker returning Christmas items to the likes of Game, House of Fraser, Littlewoods, Net-a-Porter, Next and Very, whose Christmas deadlines window ends on 9 January.”

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