A last-minute spending spree will give high streets a much-needed £2.6billion boost. Almost 28 million shoppers are expected to be out in force today and tomorrow.
Consumer expert Scott Dixon said: “Cash-strapped consumers are determined to enjoy this Christmas despite the ongoing chaos with strikes and the cost-of-living crisis after previous years of Covid restrictions.
“2023 is likely to bring little in the way of respite, so many will be looking to enjoy a few days and a break from it all with friends and family.
“We are living in stressful times so consumers are keen to spend a bit and just enjoy thetime off with friends and family after years of being unable to do so.”
Research from the website VoucherCodes predicts that today’s buying frenzy will bring in £1.5billion, of which more than £1billion will be spent in stores.
The last desperate dash for gifts and food will result in more than £1.1billion being splurged on Christmas Eve, it forecast.
Many people are buying gifts from stores rather than relying on online shopping this year to avoid disappointment as postal strikes delay parcel deliveries.
Shopping in-store is ensuring “certainty”, the British Independent Retailers Association said.
Andrew Goodacre, the chairman of Bira, said: “To ensure you get your Christmas gifts on time, we are advising people to go into shops.
“We would always say that anyway as we’d always promote a healthy, vibrant high street. But when there’s so much disruption, not just with postal strikes but rail strikes too, if customers want certainty on Christmas orders, best to order online and collect in store.”
Harvir Dhillon, an economist at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Consumers are getting in the festive mood with many making a last-minute dash for the shops despite the cloudy economic backdrop.”
Crowds flocking to the high street once again is welcome news for retailers, who have struggled with weakening consumer demand, falling footfall and growing cost pressures throughout 2022.
But this year’s figures could be down by as much as 28 percent on Christmas Eve last year as rail strikes prevent people from being able to get out and about.
Trains will stop running tomorrow as early as 8am because of strikes by the RMT union so thousands of shoppers will be forced to stay at home.
Anita Naik, a savings expert at VoucherCodes, said: “The last few days before Christmas are always incredibly busy shopping days, as many of us make a dash for final touches or forgotten festive must-haves.
“However, since tomorrow’s train strikes mean many people will have less time to shop, expect stores to be even busier than usual if you’re heading out today.
“If you’re hitting the shops today, preparation is key to helping you keep your cool and avoid overspending. Make a list of everything you need and set a budget for your spending – and stick to it.”
Retail experts are expecting shoppers to head out in greater numbers this year because of the delivery problems and diminished concerns over Covid, after last year’s Omicron-hit festive season. Kate Skipper, Waterstones’ chief operating officer, said she expects the last two days before Christmas to be “exceptional” for sales.
She said: “On Monday, Waterstones hit a new record for click-and-collect orders, beating the previous record in 2018 by over 20 percent. We look forward to these last days when it is certain only to become busier still, and more records will be broken.”
Naomi Simcock, retail director for John Lewis, said the department store has already seen footfall increase by 26 percent on last year.
She said: “Whether in stores or online, we’re ready to help customers find the perfect Christmas gift. We’ve already seen footfall increase by 26 percent on last year and have just extended our online delivery window. Orders placed by December 23 will be available via click and collect on Christmas Eve, welcome news for last-minute customers.”
Supermarkets are also expecting a sales spike over the next couple of days. Co-op research found that many Britons have still not done the big Christmas shop because of the distraction of the World Cup.
Sinead Bell, the commercial director at Co-op, said: “There’s no doubt the winter football disrupted the usual Christmas shopping habits of customers, so we fully expect shoppers to be catching up on their last-minute to-do lists over the next two days.
“We predict sales of champagne and wine for Christmas Day will be higher than pre-pandemic. And, as a convenience retailer, we always see a flurry of Christmas Eve sales on the items often forgotten in the main shop, be that a Christmas pud, party nibbles, batteries or that ‘just in case’ pint of milk.”
The retailer expects a Christmas rush today and tomorrow on bestsellers, including pigs in blankets, fresh vegetables, nibbles, beer, wine and spirits. VoucherCodes predicts that during the whole Christmas week, from Monday to Christmas Day itself, shoppers will spend a whopping £9.2billion.
Store bosses will be banking on a last-minute spending splurge as they batten down the hatches for what is expected to be a tough 2023.
The last three months of the year are known as the “golden quarter”, when many retailers make a big chunk of their profits for the whole year.
But soaring energy, food and other bills for millions of households are expected to make many tighten their belts next year.
The last few months have already been tough for stores. The Office for National Statistics said retail sales by volume fell by 0.4 percent between October and November, and by 5.9 percent year-on-year.
Last month’s Black Friday event, normally an annual sales boost for retailers, was described by one analyst as a “damp squib”.