As the song goes, Christmas is meant to be “the most wonderful time of the year” but the majority of UK shoppers may not be so merry as the nation enters its second lockdown.
Some 70% of people buy their Christmas shopping in November, according to a survey. But following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Saturday, non-essential shops will be closed until 2 December to curtail a second wave of infections.
As the impending lockdown shuts about 363,000 shops, it will force more shoppers to buy online or wait until December as an alternative.
Data from a study conducted by Opinium for Hargreaves Lansdown, revealed that 47% of people have already bought some presents, compared with 40% by this time last year.
However, the survey, which interviewed 2,001 shoppers, showed that 83% of people in the UK still have Christmas shopping to do.
Online retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), which represents retailers, warned that 11th hour shopping could create bottlenecks for retailers and delivery companies – particularly during peak days.
Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “A second lockdown, in the middle of peak Christmas shopping season, is going to scupper our shopping plans.
“The bulk of the shopping remains, and with essential shops shut, we're either going to have to leave it all to the last minute, or go online for Christmas. Both could be problematic.
“If you go online, especially if you plan to shop in the sales or leave some items to the last minute, you could run into delivery problems. Retailers could be overwhelmed by a surge in orders while trying to socially distance in warehouses and deal with demand for deliveries. There's a risk shoppers will be unable to get presents delivered in time for Christmas.
She added: “If you decide to cross your fingers and leave it to December, there's a risk that key items will sell out. The pandemic has interfered with supply chains and deliveries, and toy retailers are warning we're likely to see the worst shortages for a decade."
Last month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) launched a new “Shop early, Start wrapping, Enjoy Christmas” campaign, urging British consumers to start their festive shopping early.
The UK’s retail body hoped the drive would help spread rising demand.
Hargreaves Lansdown offers these lockdown shopping tips:
Start with a budget. If you're locked down and bored, it's easy to spend more than you planned, and a budget should help keep a lid on spending.
Sooner than than later. If you absolutely have to buy a specific item, it's worth getting it sooner rather than later - especially the most popular toys of the year.
Take delivery times with a pinch of salt. There's going to be a surge in demand, so you need a much larger margin for error.
Keep your paperwork. If there are any problems, you need a clear paper trail to get your money back.
Shop after Christmas. Don't rule out the opportunity to shop after Christmas instead - especially if you're not going to see people on the day itself any more.
Don't be tempted to buy vouchers to make life easier. It feels more thoughtful than giving cash, but it ties people into shopping at stores that might be closed during lockdown - and could shut down altogether.
Consider alternatives. You could agree to put money into accounts for children, including Junior ISAs; you could make a pact to exchange home-made presents; or you could put cash into a kitty for a get-together when all this is over.
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