"Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents".

Opening line of ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott

As we move into the ‘Golden Quarter’ – the busiest period in the retail calendar – brands and retailers will be hoping that spending is at the top of the consumer agenda. Here we look at the latest retail insight and what business – and Blue Square – can do to help make the most of this golden period.

For much of the UK, Christmas 2020 was essentially cancelled. There were no office Christmas parties or late-night celebrations with friends. Travel bans kept families apart, and last-minute government rule changes meant many were forced to stay at home altogether. For those hit hardest financially, Christmas spending was low down the priority list.

High savings, high expectations

As we slowly move into a post-Covid world, expectations for Christmas 2021 are high. People are excited to make up for missed experiences and, while it was a tough fiscal year for many, UK consumers are estimated to have saved around £200bn throughout lockdown. According to the recent survey by Future plc, 54% of those savers are ready to spend it on Black Friday and Christmas.

Some shoppers will be keen to get back to the high street, eager to make up for what they missed out on last year. And, as the nights draw in and Christmas lights are turned on, many will be looking forward to the Christmas shopping experience.

Reasons to be cheerful

The general consensus is that while we aren’t going to get back to pre-pandemic in-store retail levels any time soon, there are reasons to be optimistic.

There are some predicting that Black Friday is going to be more like Black Fortnight this year. Given the power of the customer and the online options available, the customer experience is vital and needs to come first. Having the right salespeople and brand experts instore to cope with demand is going to be crucial than ever.

According to data from the Christmas Forecast, the expected online penetration rate in Q4 2021 is 29.3%. This is slightly down from Q4 2020 (31.9%), but when compared to 2019 (20.8%), this is a huge increase.

Some savvy retailers are making the most of their trading space to improve the in-store customer experience. Asda is one brand doing just that. Since the beginning of 2020, they’ve joined forces with multiple brand partners to open ‘shop-in-shops’, including the likes of B&Q, In the Style, Decathalon and The Entertainer.

Getting ready for big demands

This year’s Golden Quarter is a hugely lucrative opportunity, especially for e-commerce retailers. But with great power comes great responsibility.

Last year’s increased online demand came with huge challenges, including shipping delays, stock issues and driver shortages. This year, with the added complexity of UK trading post-Brexit, there’s even higher pressure on fulfilment. With big retailers offering same day deliveries, speed and real-time tracking are becoming big customer satisfaction metrics.

A new study from Sitecore® shows that for 83% of marketers, Christmas 2021 will be make or break. So why are only a quarter of them prepared for it?

Shifting old stock

While we all hope to never again see the empty shelves of Covid past, it’s likely that fulfilment issues created by Brexit, energy shortages and lack of lorry drivers will also affect instore stock, leaving potential shortages of this Christmas’s must-haves.

Brands will need to be primed to help find alternative solutions for customers within their existing stock.  Fortunately, Blue Square retail teams and brand ambassadors can help shops manage these issues and help move customers from what they want to what there is actually available in stock.

Shifting old stock

While we all hope to never again see the empty shelves of Covid past, it’s likely that fulfilment issues created by Brexit, energy shortages and lack of lorry drivers will also affect instore stock, leaving potential shortages of this Christmas’s must-haves.

Brands will need to be primed to help find alternative solutions for customers within their existing stock.  Fortunately, Blue Square retail teams and brand ambassadors can help shops manage these issues and help move customers from what they want to what there is actually available in stock.

Navigating the ‘new normal’

To borrow 202o’s most commonly used phrase, retailers are learning to navigate the ‘new normal’. Balancing high street and online presence this winter will be crucial.

Retailers are learning to flex as e-commerce grows. More people are turning to online marketplaces and using social channels to help find curated gift ideas, so being mobile ready will be key. Adobe found that almost 40% of Christmas revenue in 2020 came from smartphones.

Helping you connect and engage

This year, customer experience is going to be more important than ever. Having the right boots on the ground to help consumers navigate these potential hurdles will be vital.

With job vacancies at an all-time high and not enough people to fill them, it’s important to hire in the right way. At Blue Square, our experience and insight, as well as access to a bank of 35,000 retail experts and brand ambassadors, means we can help you find the right people for the job, fast.

Our work across traditional high street, e-commerce and experiential retail marketing means we’re perfectly placed to help you traverse the most complex Golden Quarter yet.

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