Christmas Shopping survey updated

Christmas Reindeer in store

A quick thank you

This is to say thank you to everyone who completed the Christmas Shopping questionnaire for me.

A pub bauble display Thank you for Christ or for the Christmas revenue?
A pub bauble display Thank you for Christ or for the Christmas revenue? Image: John New

The current, and likely final, total is 64 respondents. As the infogr.am figures were part of a Uni project (and the marks have yet to be published) I have not updated or changed those.  The final response summary is below-

Too early?

To the question “Does Christmas get into the shops too early?” the responses were-

No = 14 , Yes = 50  – an overwhelming majority of 78% although the final total is very slightly down on the earlier reported figure of 80%.

However one interesting quote received suggests this is not a new trend and differs little from the 1970s.

Not really I worked in a department store in the 70’s and xmas stock was being put on the shelves in September.  Respondent No 63.

My own experience of living in York in the 1970s supports this; there was the annual game of guessing which would arrive first – Santa at the Co-op Department Store or Bonfire Night.

Christmas Reindeer in store
Christmas ornaments in store. Image: John New
The New Year sales impact?

To the question “Did you delay a purchase by planning ahead to buy in the New Year sales?” the response were:-

No = 48 and Yes = 16.  As 75% of respondents did not delay a purchase until the sales, as with my earlier observation, other than the original purpose of shifting seasonal stock that is no longer relevant is there really any point to the sales?

Impact of on-line retailing

The question asked was “Did you buy any Christmas gifts on-line?” with a split for the yes answers between Vouchers only or a mix of gifts and vouchers.

This figure confirms the shifting pattern of giving in the twenty-first century.  In the final total only 6 from 64 had not bought at least a gift voucher on-line as a Christmas present.  That 9.3% in the final total was very slightly higher than in the interim analysis posted but confirms the overwhelming impact of on-line retailing.

In fact only 1 respondent from the total had only bought a gift voucher as their on-line purchase with the vast majority buying both an actual gift and a voucher.

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Research facts – story spoilers

Primary research I have carried out suggests that journalistic staples in the Christmas build up differ from reality. Recently on Storify I published two posts, the first outlining how journalists predicted Christmas rail misery, and the second describing how shopper behaviour impacts on retailers.  In the background, I also posted two research questionnaires  surrounding those same topics.  The feedback from those is now available and suggests that citizens are in fact street-savvy, and old preconceptions require modification.  The old quote, often attributed to Mark Twain, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”, is, in this instance, perhaps being proven correct.

Rail engineering – predicted travel chaos
Research shows track maintenance accepted - photo of equipment.
Track maintenance equipment Image: John New

As identified in my earlier Storify post, chaos has in the past occurred when works have overrun, therefore some elements of the journalists predictions have validity.  This post, however, challenge to the regularly promoted expectation that travellers resent the large scale rail closures over holiday periods.  Primary research in fact suggests that travellers think holiday closures are, perhaps, the least troublesome option.

[infogram id=”rail_closure_survey”]

Those responding to the question “No they were not aware there were likely to be closures” were asked to select from five options as to the reason for their lack of awareness. However, the no response was so low that the individual answers to that question are statistically of little value. The major surprise from the survey, given that there had been considerable mainstream news coverage (in particular regarding temporary replacement of the services to Heathrow and Gatwick airports), was that there were still 10% who responded that they were unaware of such closures.

A deserted London Waterloo. Image: John New
A deserted London Waterloo. Image: John New
What shoppers think of Christmas retailing

As an independent blogger, a survey will never match the accuracy of nationwide sampling by specialists such as  IPSOS-MORI, but that does not negate its use.  My own survey was to ascertain consumer attitudes to the early arrival of Christmas in retail outlets, and whether that conflicts with the standard journalistic coverage of retailers’ announcements regarding Christmas.

What the survey showed is that, whilst shoppers feel it is OK to be able to buy Christmas goods in store at an early date, there is resentment at the modern trend for getting the rest of the Christmas trappings into stores at such early dates.

[infogram id=”christmasnew_year_retail_survery_20156″]

The fact that consumers are buying early to spread the Christmas spend over a longer period also makes a mockery of articles published quoting from retailers’ press releases regarding their poor Christmas build up.  If customers previously spent £x in December, but now spread that £x budget over September to December, the spend is the same, merely to a new pattern.  The reality may well be that by spreading the purchase time the actual spend by consumers is now £x+n. There is perhaps a situation where not only have retailers had their cake and eaten most of it, they are also anticipating delivery of a second cake!

What also emerges from the survey is that the New Year sales are perhaps no longer the big draw for consumers that retailers previously expected, as only 24.4% of respondents had deliberately withheld making a purchase until the post-Christmas sales period.  Perhaps therefore the mainstream media outlets are missing the deeper story.  When retailers release their New Year comments on the sales, journalists should perhaps be asking why are you bothering with a sale?  The January sales were, after all, originally primarily to shift winter stock to make room for the new spring ranges, not as the profit centres retailers now expect them to be.

The survey, however, does confirm that where consumers have access to the internet they are highly likely to purchase gifts on-line, including vouchers, so that the recipient will also spend on-line.

About the research

Both surveys  remain live via Google Forms, although it is unlikely that either will receive significant additional input.  The rail survey received a reasonable response rate at the original survey date, the retailing questionnaire required a further request for completion.  The retailing question regarding on-line shopping is skewed in favour of a yes answer as it was conducted on-line.  For this reason therefore, perhaps the most significant aspect is that around 9% of the respondents did not buy a gift on-line despite being IT users with internet access.

What this small research element identified is that when the 2016-17 Christmas build up occurs, the real news stories should be around changing shopping habits, not the retailers spin on short-term sales figures.

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