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Christmas more important than ever say shoppers as new restrictions fail to reduce retail footfall

UK consumers are determined not to let the latest round of Covid restrictions ruin Christmas this year, according to new research.

Early and record-breaking holiday shopping season predicted

The study, from out-of-home agency Kinetic Worldwide has found in its latest Alfresco Life research.

More than half of UK adults said Christmas would be more important than ever this year, rising to three quarters of 18-34-year olds.

Kinetic found 28% of consumers had already started shopping for Christmas and the majority (58%) plan to spend the same as last year (16% plan to spend more) in spite of looming financial hardship as the economic impact of the full lockdown bites. A further 25% say they will start shopping for gifts in October and almost a quarter (23%) said they had started their festive preparations earlier than usual this year.

Although, lockdown earlier in the year saw a big spike in online shopping, Kinetic found strong indications that UK shoppers will return to the high street for their Christmas shopping – 37% said they would do at least some shopping in-stores with a third also stating it was important for inspiration.

Keep calm and keep shopping

Analysis of consumer movements out-of-home by Kinetic shows that UK grocery shopping has returned to near normal levels. Supermarket footfall returned to almost 90% of pre-Covid levels in mid-September (87% of January-to-March 2020 average figures) and roadside traffic is now at 83%. Shopping centres’ footfall is up to 54% of pre-lockdown volumes while rail and London Underground footfall has recovered to 40% of normal levels.

Outside of major conurbations, people’s activity out-of-home has reached 91% of the pre-lockdown levels while across all UK cities it has reached 79%.

Robust local footfall suggests restriction resistance

Kinetic’s data suggest the implementation of local restrictions on socialising in Greater Manchester, Bolton, Burnley, and Blackburn have had little or no impact on people’s activity. Looking at the week of September 14th, Kinetic found just a 1-2% drop in footfall in Greater Manchester and Bolton as people adjusted to the Rule of Six and other restrictions. Other affected areas in Blackburn and Burnley saw 1%-2% growth suggesting restrictions have little impact on OOH consumption.

In areas such as Caerphilly with even stricter restrictions, footfall has rebounded and was up 5% week-on-week suggesting any negative lockdown impacts remain a short-term effect as people acclimatise to their new rules.

No masking the desire to shop in store

Kinetic also found consumers are becoming accustomed to wearing a mask while shopping with 80% saying wearing a mask either didn’t bother them or was a minor inconvenience that wouldn’t stop them going to stores – just 21% said having to wear one reduced the amount they spent on the high street.

Kinetic’s research detected a shift away from online shopping. Even though lockdown forced consumers to switch to online shopping, when asked to imagine that the threat of Covid-19 has disappeared, only 31% said that they will spend more online compared to their habits prior the pandemic. In fact, 56% of adults prefer to shop in store whenever they can, and 63% of 18-34-years olds missed visiting shops during lockdown.

Nicole Lonsdale, Chief Planning Officer at Kinetic, said: “In spite of new restrictions and localised lockdowns threatening the upcoming festive season, our study suggests a remarkable resilience in people’s shopping behaviour and a steely determination amongst UK consumers to make the most of this year’s Christmas season.

“Our analysis of audience mobility and footfall suggest the desire to shop in-store remains an important aspect of everyday life. While marketing budgets are still under revision, OOH is one of the most adaptive channels that can reach audiences at different points of their purchase journey. With Christmas being more important to consumers than ever before, brands should use this as an opportunity to bring the festive feeling to them.”

Source: Kinetic Worldwide

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