Christmas after Covid-19 - how will the festive season shape up for retailers?
Stellar’s Co-Founder & Business Development Director Anna Brettle shares her thoughts
It may only be July but in retail terms Christmas is just around the corner.
Preparations for the so called Golden Quarter are usually in full swing by now, with manufacturers and brands showcasing Christmas lines to the industry and putting the finishing touches to their messaging for the festive period, so as to hit the ground running as soon as it arrives.
But with the global pandemic still very much at the forefront of everyone’s minds, just how much will Christmas consumerism be affected this year?
Should social distancing still be necessary at the tail-end of 2020, bricks-and-mortar stores will struggle to entice the usually high numbers of shoppers to the high streets and into shopping centres.
The risk of a second wave of the coronavirus here in the UK, particularly in the winter, is a worrying reality, so any seasonal planning taking place now is subject to change.
The harsh reality
With the UK now in recession, and the government’s furlough scheme closing at the end of October, a surge in unemployment will no doubt follow.
Christmas spending was already at an all-time low last year, with the blame being laid at the feet of uncertainty surrounding Brexit and the December general election.
Retailers reacted by heavily discounting products in the run up to Christmas in a bid to draw shoppers in and limit losses.
With the additional unprecedented factors brought about by the pandemic now in the mix, retailers face further testing times as the festive period approaches.
Events intrinsically linked with the big Christmas push will also be impacted, such as Black Friday, which usually sees shoppers flocking en masse to their favourite stores to grab a bargain or ten.
If social distancing measures do need to be adhered to for the remainder of the year, this simply will not be an option as a means of encouraging people back to the already-too-quiet high streets.
Add these factors to the ever increasing growth of online shopping, which has been further cemented in recent months thanks to lockdown, and bricks-and-mortar stores have quite the task on their hands.
Where there is a will, there is a way
The outlook may appear bleak but, in spite of everything, off-line sales still accounted for more than double the amount spent online in 2019 during the run up Christmas in the UK.
According to statistics released by the Centre for Retail Research, online sales totalled more than £25billion for Christmas 2019, while sales in-store generated in excess of £53billion.
Granted, sales growth in offline retail is slowly falling year on year, but there is still a genuine desire for people to leave their homes and spend in the stores they love.
And it is this desire that must be quickly and effectively capitalised upon in the aftermath of lockdown.
In order to do that for Christmas 2020, the lure of discounted products will simply not suffice.
Consumers need new and irresistible reasons to get back to the high street in their droves.
Brands must pour everything they have, financially and creatively speaking, into clever marketing and breathtaking merchandising.
Engagement is absolutely essential and experience has never been more important.
Experiences this Christmas may well be different, especially if we all still have to keep a safe distance, but they can still be creative, immersive and captivating, enticing customers in and making them feel part of something exciting and wonderful.
The time is now to reach out and connect with shoppers on a whole new level, to reawaken their love for the high street and reignite their desire to browse, try and buy in person.
E-commerce will of course continue to boom, more so this year than ever before, but for brands offering an engaging multi-channel approach, blurring the lines between the on and offline shopping experience, in-store success across the festive period is still achievable.
Stellar is proud to specialise in the surprise and delight concept when it comes to your customers.
We are experts in experience and engagement and we are here to help you through the most important part of what has been a truly unsettling, but undeniably unique year.
Find out how we can transform your retail performance