Shoppers in John Lewis’ Oxford Street branch can step into the set of the department store’s Christmas ad, which launched today. The chance to explore the set and sit at the piano that features in The Boy & The Piano campaign – which tells how the gift of a piano changed the life of the boy who grew up to be Elton John – chimes with the department store’s strategy of offering experiential retail in order to encourage its customers to come in-store. John Lewis says that shoppers in the store will be able to "step into Christmas on every floor" through experiences from the ad. That branch, along with 14 of its others across the UK, will also give customers a chance to play a Yamaha piano in-store.
Craig Inglis, partner and customer director at John Lewis & Partners, said: ’Think back to all of the Christmases that you have enjoyed over the years - I’m sure there is one very special gift that stands out above all others. That’s the magical feeling we wanted to bring to life this year. The ad tells the story of why Elton’s piano was more than just a gift and we hope to remind customers of that special moment when they’ve given a gift at Christmas time that they know will be treasured forever."
Elton John said: "It’s been a lovely opportunity for me to reflect on my life in music and the incredible journey I have been on, and how first playing my grandmother’s piano marks the moment when music came into my life. The ad is absolutely fantastic and I’ve truly loved every minute of being a part of it."
The ad launched first to John Lewis and Waitrose staff before running on its social media channels, website and in-store from 8am. Its first TV airing will be tonight at 9.15pm on ITV.
More retailers are joining the race towards Black Friday, a week out from the day itself.
Argos’ Black Friday deals went live overnight. There will be deals on technology, televisions, video games, health and beauty gadgets and more. The retailer says it will be offering its lowest prices ever on some electrical products, as well as ’buy one, get one half-price’ offers on jewellery.
The retailer points to its fast delivery services as part of that offer, via click and collect at more than 1,000 sites, including 250 Argos stores in branches of Sainsbury’s, or via Fast Track delivery in as little as four hours and up to 10pm at night.
Appliances Direct deals also went live on Friday, with savings of up to 50% on televisions, kitchen gadgets, hoovers and more, while AO.com has launched its deals on white goods and other electrical as well.
UK consumers are predicted to spend £13.41m per minute over the Cyber Weekend this year, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR). Of that, it expects £8.29bn to be spent online and offline between Black Friday (23rd November) and Cyber Monday (26th November). That’s a 6% increase on the £7.78bn spent in 2017. Of that, the two forecast just over half of the total (£4.8bn) will be spent in store, and the balance through channels led by online shopping.
Vouchercodes director of marketing Jimmy New said: “Almost a quarter of Christmas sales take place over the Cyber Weekend. Where the focus used to be on Black Friday, retailers are increasingly launching flash sales over the long weekend, as well as offering deals in the week leading up to it. This leaves retailers with a wider sales window to capture extra sales from new and existing customers, providing a welcome boost to the UK economy.”
Meanwhile, American Express is forecasting that UK shoppers will spend an average of £1,200 on this year’s Christmas season, including £295 on gifts. That adds up to £60bn across the UK - down from £70bn last year.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of the 2,000 respondents to a survey for Aptos’ The New Golden Quarter report say they don’t wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in order to do their spending. That’s because, as more than half (54%) told the retail technology provider, they don’t believe they get the best deals on those days.
Instead, they’re starting earlier, suggests the report, with the aim of finishing their online Christmas shopping by November 30, and getting final gifts in-store right up to December 24. The high street will be their preferred destination for shopping, the report says, with 71% of those opting to visit their high street saying it was down to the physical experience of browsing.
Aptos regional vice president Richard Willis predicts this year’s peak trading is set to be buoyant.
"The golden quarter, the sale period that runs from October to December, has always been a busy and profitable time for UK retailers, and thanks to a deepening understanding of customers’ omnichannel preferences and behaviours, as well as the revitalisation of store experiences, we expect the 2018 festive season to be particularly robust," he said.
The Aptos report found that consumers’ top priority was price, whether they shop online or in-store. Deals and promotions are important for 54% of those buying in-store, followed by good stock levels (37%). For online orders, speed of delivery (51%) is critical.
Retailers miss out of sales worth £18bn a year that are abandoned in baskets, according to Barclaycard, which suggests retailers need to ensure that they offer seamless omnichannel experiences, including an up-to-date payment system in order to combat that trend.
George Allardice, head of strategy at Barclaycard Payment Solutions, said: "There are many ways retailers can prepare ahead of the Christmas rush to maximise sales – and with more and more consumers researching and purchasing online, it is crucial to ensure a smooth payment process to convert online interest into sales. Our data shows that the months leading up to the festivities, November and December, have the highest levels of online basket abandonment, as shoppers browse for Christmas present ideas."
He added: "Staying ahead of the curve with payment services can play a crucial role in supporting the wider business strategy. Retailers can gain access to rich data and insights to understand their customers and identify possible barriers to conversion.”
Attempted fraudulent transactions are set to increase by 14% over peak trading, warns ACI Worldwide, and to for those attempted frauds to be worth a collective 17% more. It says that 1.36% of attempted transactions on Black Friday and 1% on Cyber Monday will be fraudulent, with cross-channel fraud set to rise both via click and collect and via call centres.
“The first step to fighting fraud is knowing what you’re up against,” said Erika Dietrich, global director, payments risk at ACI Worldwide. "Fraudsters prepare for peak holiday season just as much as merchants and consumers do. By anticipating the increase in fraud during the holiday shopping season, and being aware of where fraudsters may be lurking, consumers and merchants can get ahead of fraudulent activity and protect themselves.
“As more consumers purchase big ticket items like smartphones, TVs and other electronics, we expect the attempted fraud average ticket price to be higher this year than in previous years. Fraudsters will also keep an eye on items that have limited inventory as it gives them an additional opportunity to steal and sell those items on the dark market for a higher price; consumers and merchants alike must be vigilant in such cases.”
ACI advises retailers to monitor areas where there has previously been fraud, to be proactive and stay vigilant, while developing customer profiles to show where fraud may occur.