Coronavirus: Christmas affordability worry for 'more than half' of UK consumers

Four in 10 people plan to complete Christmas shopping online, according to a study. Photo: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

More than half (52%) of UK consumers are worried about how they will afford Christmas this year, as the harsh economic realities of the COVID-19 pandemic hit home for many, according to a survey.

About 31% of those polled for consumer insight company Toluna’s Understanding the 2020 Consumer Global Barometer study plan to spend less on presents and gifts this year.

This is due to 43% of the 1,108 people polled having concerns about the current financial situation, the survey found. It showed 40% of people want to save as much as possible for 2021 for fear of what is to come, and 39% of those asked said they will spend less on presents because they have seen changes in personal finances this year.

Over a third (35%) of people asked do not have any festive savings, and nearly 40% confessed to being more selective about who they’re buying presents for this Christmas.

As a result of squeezed budgets four in 10 people will consider using credit (such as credit cards, Klarna, PayPal credit) to delay Christmas shopping costs and to spread out the amount spent.

Esther Ward, senior research executive at Harris Interactive, said: “It’s clear that Christmas this year is going to be markedly different and that’s having a big impact on our spending habits – how much we spend, in what ways and where.

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“Retailers need to tap into this consumer sentiment to deliver the right kind of shopping experience to people, meeting their needs in a personalised way, empathising with not just the current economic environment but their own personal realities too.”

The study also showed a more pronounced shift to online shopping, as four in 10 planned to do Christmas shopping online.

November is the preferred choice when it comes to starting Christmas shopping (40%), with just over a fifth (22%) leaving it to December to buy their presents.

A third of people are concerned gifts won’t be available to buy because of stock shortages due to the pandemic. However, 22% of people said they would be prepared to spend a little bit more to secure the gifts they want.

Over the weekend, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) launched a new “Shop early, Start wrapping, Enjoy Christmas” national campaign, urging British consumers to start their festive shopping early.

The UK’s retail body hopes the drive will help spread rising demand in what is traditionally the country’s busiest shopping period of the year.

With measures such as social distancing and tighter coronavirus rules in place across the country, shoppers are encouraged to “think of others” by “preventing” the usual retail rush common during Christmas.

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