Feel-good factor kicks in on four-week countdown to big day
With just four weeks left to the big day, a feelgood factor seems to be returning to the High Street – as GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index has increased by six points in good news for retailers.
“Consumer confidence strengthened in November with improvements across all measures,” said Joe Staton, client strategy director for the market research company, highlighting this month’s increase compared to October.
He added: “Although the overall index score is still tracking firmly in negative territory, it’s good to see consumers are more optimistic about their personal financial situation. This shows people are thinking about their future with increased confidence and willingness to look beyond the short term.
“The dramatic 10-point jump in our major purchase sub-measure, reversing some of the worrying 14-point drop we saw last month, will be good news for retailers looking to benefit from Christmas. Despite the acute cost-of-living pressures, many would still like to loosen their purse strings just a little so they can enjoy that feelgood factor we all associate with the festive season.”
The GfK research tracks markers reflecting how consumers felt about their personal financial situation over the last 12 months; their personal financial situation over the next 12 months; the general economic situation over the last 12 months; the general economic situation over the next 12 months, as well as a major purchase index marker.
The index score was 20 points higher than the score in November 2022, and Joe explained: “Recent ups and downs in confidence have underlined the nation’s topsy-turvy economic mood as encouraging news about falling inflation and wage growth is offset by high personal taxation, alongside costly fuel and energy bills.”
Keeping in the festive spirit, PG Buzz has gone out to retailers up and down the country to find out their hunches and approach for this Christmas season. Here Between The Lines’ Ellie Kleinlercher, MiMi’s Julianne Moore and Heidi Early, of Earlybird Designs, give their views…
Ellie Kleinlercher, buyer at Between The Lines, 17 stores in the south of England
Your hunch: “I’m hoping that Christmas will be better than ever this year for us, especially as we now have more stores, with our new Lymington branch.”
Your approach: “Last year we saw a massive increase in the number of singles and relations cards being bought and I suspect this pattern will follow again this year so we’ve cut back a bit on our packaged cards’ selection.
“We put all our Christmas selection out in September. While we feel the cost of first class stamps going up will put some people off, the fact that the cost of second class has remained the same at 75p is a plus and, of course, people still hand deliver a lot of the special cards at Christmas.”
Julianne Moore, owner of MiMI, Hartley Wintney and Woking
Your hunch: “We’re optimistic that Christmas 2023 is going to be epic. Early indications are proving us right, on the back of a great sell through of Halloween – thanks to Heaven Sends’ velvet pumpkins – and some Christmas card lines were sold out, notably from Cinnamon Aitch and Roger La Borde, before November!
“Our relations Christmas cards started selling well early, but we’re sure that sales of charity boxes will take over.”
Your approach: “I took away from The Henries’ judging day meeting to put certain Christmas cards –advent cards and relations captions – on the shopfloor earlier than previous years and this has definitely benefited our sales.”
“Our Christmas departments are bursting with products, from pick-up decorations, cards, gifts and homeware, and we’ve spread our festive selection on to each floor which has worked well for us in previous years. We colour coordinate which helps our customers too!
“We source from 15-plus card publishers for Christmas cards and support many charities. We find the sparklier the better, so companies like Five Dollar Shake benefit from this.
“We’re fully committed to boosting Christmas card sending and began our promotion after Bonfire Night. We are asking customers to purchase a Christmas card from us, write it and we will provide the stamp and they can post it into our post box. Our local post office has been really helpful with this by making collections instore.”
Heidi Early, co-owner of Earlybird Designs, Stoke Newington
Your hunch: “I expect our Christmas trade to be on a par with last year. We’re definitely not expecting fireworks as, overall, customers have been spending less per head all year so we expect that trend to continue.
“However, we’re hoping that if the industry #Cardmitment push and the extra promotion from our WhatsApp Xmas Cardies group works, our Christmas card sales may be up. If people are going to spend less, then we need spending to be spread out over a longer period to combat that, and that’s hopefully what we’ll achieve.
“With specific reference to Christmas cards we expect to continue to see a growth in single card sales, but do expect our box card sales to replicate last year. Around 90% of our boxed cards are charity-related, the art-based ones are the most popular, in particular the London scenes.
“For single cards, the funny ones are top sellers but we’re also seeing a growth in more expensive cards that have a special finish – letterpress and laser cut in particular fly off the shelves.”
Your approach: “Christmas packs and a few select single Christmas cards were put out in the second week of October and the sales trickled in. We have quite a lot of customers who send abroad so they like to buy early. Even before we had our full Christmas display out we had one customer spend over £100 on cards and second class stamps – and that was.
“Teaming up with other indies in an Xmas Cardies WhatsApp group to share ideas to get our customers sending cards early and really reinforce card sending in general is working well. We started the social media push at the end of October and are working together to share as much as possible. A running theme throughout is to encourage sending cards by second class post, with many of us reflecting this in our window displays.
“For our window display we’ve creatied a fire and mantlepiece scene with Christmas cards displayed – and using the GCA tagline ‘send a Christmas card, deliver a smile’.
“It’s the emotional connection with cards that is so important – there’s nothing that replaces that and it’s our responsibility as an industry to really remind customers of that this Christmas.”
Wish for Father Christmas? “For Christmas card sending to smash all records this year!”