'Respectable' festive sales expected in UK, fashion to benefit says Mintel

today Nov 22, 2019
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With all the focus on Black Friday, it's easy to forget that the overall Christmas shopping season is about more than what happens at the end of November. And on Friday, Mintel underlined that with a new prediction that said December retail sales could be worth £48.7 billion in the UK, while for the season as whole, fashion and beauty will be key spending categories.

December's sales could prove stronger than expected says Mintel

Not that it could ignore Black Friday altogether and it said that last year, 39% of consumers bought something during the Black Friday promotions (with almost half of them buying electrical items) so it expects more of the same this year.

Back with Christmas as a whole, Mintel is forecasting some Christmas cheer for Britain's retailers, despite a tough year overall. The figure it has put on December’s sales would represent a respectable 3.8% increase year-on-year, which is well above the roughly 2% inflation rate and so does represent an advance in real terms.

Importantly for the fashion sector, it said that sales through non-food retailers next month should reach around £23.9 billion, which will include £4.2 billion from online sales that are generated by physical stores. 

And talking of online, the researchers believe that web sales in December will be worth £11.6 billion and will account for a massive 23.7% of all retail sales.


Looking at Black Friday, as we've seen, Mintel said that a large minority of the UK population shops during the event. And much of that activity happens online with 86% of Black Friday shoppers turning to the internet to avoid the kind of crush in physical shops that happened a few years ago when Black Friday first became a big deal in the UK.

In fact, although Black Friday is very much a big event for physical shops in its original home, the US, in Britain it's a largely online event. Only 29% of consumers shopped the event in physical stores last year. That meant a bonanza for Amazon, which was the most popular destination with 42% of Black Friday buyers shopping there during the event.

And while electricals proved to be the most popular product category, clothing and footwear were in second place with 38% of shoppers buying them, while beauty and fragrance came next on 25%, highlighting the importance of these categories to the overall festive season's spend.

And why exactly did people shop during Black Friday? Some 67% of them bought something as a Christmas gift, while 58% were buying items they would normally have bought earlier. But they delayed their purchases because they knew there would be some deals available linked to Black Friday.

Nick Carroll, Associate Director of Retail Research at Mintel, said: “We’re forecasting that December will result in steady growth for the retail sector. In normal circumstances, with the current low unemployment and solid wage growth, this would point to an even better Christmas than in past years. However, this has, of course, been far from an ideal run-up, with Brexit uncertainty dragging on and an election now a late additional hurdle for the sector to pass and process before the big day.
“Despite this, the past few festive periods have shown that customers can be resilient in the face of uncertain times and we believe underlying demand will hold up reasonably well. Customers will, of course, be looking for value, and with fewer days between Black Friday and Christmas this year retailers’ margins may be particularly stretched”.
“Although high-street retailers may be under pressure, over half (53%) of shoppers think visiting stores is a good way to get into the festive experience. Therefore the run-up to Christmas is a great opportunity to get shoppers into stores and enthused about the physical shopping experience. Those that can provide valued experiences whilst tapping into other underlying trends, such as local sourcing and ethical production, combined with attracting value-conscious shoppers, put themselves in a good position this festive season.”

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