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British retailers ‘cautiously optimistic’ about festive shopping season

By Andrea Byrne

16 Nov 2020

Retail

93 percent of retailers have upped their online offering as they are “cautiously optimistic about the festive shopping season”, according to new research by consultancy firm Capgemini.

The research, which surveyed 851 retail managers across France, Germany, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, the UK and the US, also found that 46 percent of retailers expect an increase in sales in the run-up to Christmas.

The preference for in-store shopping this Black Friday has dropped to 28 percent from 39 percent last year, as 49 percent of consumers expect to shop more online than in previous years.

In anticipation of consumers choosing online shopping, 50 percent of retailers say they have improved their website or e-commerce propositions, 34 percent have increased their web traffic capacity and 21 percent have introduced new virtual shopping experiences.

To attract customers to shop, 78 percent of retailers will offer greater discounts online and in-store and 33 percent plan to offer a bigger range of discounted items online.

However, uncertainty remains, with 39 percent of retailers unconfident in predicting sales patterns this year compared to 55 percent in 2019, due to the unprecedented backdrop of the pandemic. Some 54 percent of retailers said the threat of lockdown is their biggest concern, while 50 percent of retailers blame supply chain disruption and 30 percent said their database is not as reliable due to Covid-19.

Only 14 percent of consumers expect to spend more than usual on Black Friday and of the 35 percent who said they will spend less, 43 percent stated less disposable income was the reason.

Millennials to spend most this holiday season

Millenials and Gen Z are set to be the biggest spenders, with 40 percent of Millennials (25-34-year-olds) and 37 percent of Gen Zs (18-24-year-olds) saying they have saved money since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and intend to spend it around Black Friday and the holiday sales period.

Over half of all holiday season purchases by consumers will be for essential items, 35 percent of purchases will be for buying gifts and 21 percent will be for consumers treating themselves.

Tim Bridges, global head of consumer goods and retail at Capgemini, said in a statement: “The holiday season has always been hard for retailers to predict, but supply chain disruption, consumer caution and changing government restrictions means this year is full of uncertainty.

“Despite this, retailers recognize that sales will shift online and have invested in their e-commerce offerings, with many businesses increasing payment options, opening up new delivery methods or bringing the in-store experience online through initiatives like virtual dressing rooms.

“With the ongoing nature of the pandemic, the uncertainty we’re witnessing today is likely to continue into next year. The real winners will be those that can digitally streamline their operations and supply chains, so that they can easily scale up and down to meet sudden surges and decreases in consumer spending.”

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