Retailers look forward to the Christmas period because in some product areas gifts and seasonal produce account for the bulk of their annual sales. But every year the boom seems to get later and merges with the January sales… until this year when John Lewis bucked the trend by reporting strong like-for-like sales in mid November. So are consumers really tightening their belts or was this just a blip that will be wiped out by the equally early seasonal weather?
Figures from last week confirm that the weather has indeed hit trade, but rather than being all doom and gloom we are buying our Christmas decorations earlier, stocking up on winter clothes and food (has anyone else tried to buy a pair of wellies this week?) and spending even more than predicted online. Monday 6 December has been dubbed ‘Mega Monday’ because it represents peak online demand to get guaranteed delivery for Christmas. Some e-tailers reported sales up between 50-90% on last year! Consumers were spending up to £800,000 per minute.
Just as retailers sell more, there are also more retailers leading up to Christmas. The ‘pop-up’ shop is a concept that has grown in popularity in recent years. In many cases seasonal traders take over empty properties to sell large volumes of cheap seasonal fare that we simply wouldn’t buy at any other time of year. But other ‘pop-ups’ can be unique and short-lived experiences to buy quality products from some of our talented crafts people, who spend the rest of the year making their stock. But even the big brands have caught on to pop-up shops this year with luxury brand Hermes launching a series of pop-up concept shops aimed, not just at selling, but also at getting new, younger consumers interested in their products. One of the best examples is a giant, walk-in “Kelly bag” that lets the consumer experience a day in the life of the iconic bag. We may not be that adventurous in Nottingham (yet) but check out Design Circus in West Bridgford which is open until Christmas for all your gift needs.
Another emerging type of retail concept is the ‘learning shop’ where you can go along and experience the joys of making your own beautiful products, as an alternative to mass consumption. Only Jamie Oliver would think up the idea of getting us to buy tickets for our loved ones to go and cook a meal for two at his Recipease outlet in London – just so they can bring it home as a take-away. But seriously, there is a new generation of retailers who offer this kind of experience and it is the perfect gift for the mum, dad or auntie who has already got everything.
You can experience all kinds of learning shops here in Nottingham, from making your own jewellery to painting plates, and many of them offer gift vouchers too. Check out Debbie Bryan’s Design Room in Nottingham city or the Harley Gallery outside Nottingham. Must go, I’ve just thought what to buy my brother for Christmas!
Lynn Oxborrow is Senior Lecturer in Marketing, Retail and Operations at Nottingham Trent University
To speak with Lynn directly, please call Nottingham Trent University’s Press Office on 0115 848 8751 or email email@example.com