As many as a quarter (25%) of UK shoppers that celebrate Christmas say they will have started thinking about Christmas shopping before the end of August as they tentatively hope for a more normal festive season than last year.
That’s according to a new report from eBay Ads UK which suggests that greater consumer confidence in the return of the traditional Christmas could prompt people to start shopping sooner and spend more this festive season – and brands will need to act early to make the most of the opportunity.
The research, which surveyed 2000 UK consumers who celebrate Christmas, reveals that people are feeling more optimistic about Christmas 2021 as they anticipate a more ordinary festive season than last year. Three in five respondents (60%) feel optimistic that they’ll be able to celebrate as usual this Christmas, while half (49%) think that this Christmas will feel traditional and plan to do what they always do. A quarter (25%) feel Christmas will be more exciting this year – up from just 16% in 2020.
This positivity could prompt people to prepare for Christmas earlier this year – with 27% of respondents planning to start Christmas shopping and preparations earlier than they did last year, and two fifths (41%) saying they’ll have finished their Christmas shopping before December even starts. In comparison, when asked the same question in 2020, only 25% of consumers said they would plan to finish Christmas shopping before December.
And, while people report having spent slightly less, on average, on Christmas presents and celebrations in 2020 (£527.88) compared to 2019 (£551.34), this year many consumers are planning to spend more – suggesting greater confidence in their financial situation. According to the research, 30% of consumers plan to spend more, and only 15% plan to spend less. This is much more optimistic compared to 2020, when only 13% said they’d spend more, and 31% said they’d spend less.
However, despite this optimism, many people are still worried about further disruption due to Covid-19. Nearly half (45%) are likely to put off making plans for Christmas until the last minute, and 30% are so worried about more disruption that they might even celebrate Christmas early with friends or family.
Harmony Murphy, GM Advertising UK at eBay, comments: “After so much stress and disruption over the past year and a half, and last Christmas especially, it’s brilliant to see Brits are finally feeling more hopeful about this year’s festive celebrations – albeit cautiously. To make the most of the opportunity this presents, brands need to start engaging with customers early on to ensure they are front of mind when it’s time to purchase. And, taking into account ongoing uncertainty, brands should also look to tap into the mindsets of their customers to make sure they are interacting with them in meaningful and relevant ways – however they are feeling this Christmas.”
With a quarter of consumers planning to start researching Christmas gifts before the end of this month, it’s no surprise to find that Christmas-related searches on ebay.co.uk started ramping up as early as August last year as well. Over the course of August 2020, the site saw a 66% boost in searches for the keywords ‘Christmas’ and ‘Xmas’ compared to July 2020.
The Sporting Goods category saw a particular surge in Christmas-related traffic, with searches up 262% in August 2020 compared to the previous month, while Christmas searches in the Clothes, Shoes and Accessories and Home & Furniture and DIY categories jumped 83% and 85% respectively.
Pauline Robson, Managing Partner, MediaCom UK, adds: “2020 brought us a Christmas like no other with retailers, brands and consumers having to flex and adapt plans at short notice. As we look forward to what we hope will be a less disrupted Christmas, this data from eBay demonstrates that it is even more important than ever to understand the mindset and behaviours of your audience in the run up to this crucial period.
Robson concludes: “The brands that will win this Christmas will be those that are able to use this insight to drive cultural relevance and to ensure that their campaigns reflect the diversity of their audiences. But if there is one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that things can change quickly and that businesses need to be able to adapt and pivot in response, so flexibility will be key.”