New research published by data and digital experts TWC reveals consumers’ spending intentions in the run-up to Christmas.

Highlights from the survey of 1,052 consumers are:

23% of consumers will be trading up this Christmas – 50% lower than previous years

84% of consumers say they will use a convenience store this Christmas

28% say they intend to shop more locally for food and drinks this Christmas

26% will probably use home delivery/click & collect from a convenience store

47% say they have continued to use their local convenience store more even after restrictions have been lifted

19% people have started buying food and drink for Christmas already

11% of consumers still intend to eat out on Christmas Day, and 10% intend to eat out on Boxing Day

The survey showed a reluctance to spend this Christmas – in many cases with intended spend almost halving across elements such as treats, food consumption at home over the festive period, and Christmas lunch itself compared to ‘normal’ years.

On a positive note, 84% of consumers surveyed said they will use their local convenience store this Christmas.

“One of the major findings is that consumers love shopping locally, and recognise that c-stores have done a brilliant job in supporting their local communities,” notes Tom Fender, development director of TWC.

“But the research suggests that consumers don’t see convenience stores as a fully credible place to buy Christmas foods from. This is a missed opportunity/marketing opportunity [as] almost 50% of the nation (30 million consumers) specifically say they would be interested in buying Christmas food and drinks from local convenience stores if they sold them.”

Fender says that this is a time for wholesalers to advise their retailer customers on maximising festive sales: “For those retailers who are agile and nimble there are many opportunities, and with consumers starting their shopping now, our advice would be to commence Christmas trading urgently (if not already).

“We know that people are looking for premium items, they are looking for hampers, and they are increasingly turning to home delivery services or click & collect to support their buying needs.”

He adds: “A quarter of us are still planning on trading up this Christmas. And when it comes to trading up, our data showed that premium truly means premium. Too often, retailers think that premium means ‘a little bit better’ but a clear opportunity exists to push the boat out and go ‘luxury’.  Wholesalers can encourage their customers to consider those luxury items and look to upsell.”

At the same time, says Fender, wholesalers need to remind retailers about doing the basics well – ensuring availability, removing slow moving lines and giving prominence to best-selling lines.

The research also looked at the out-of-home sector. While 33% of respondents confirmed they had headed out to a local pub and eaten out over the Christmas period in previous years, one in seven said they still intend to eat out at some point across the festive holiday this year. However, only 7% of people said they plan to participate in an office party.

TWC’s ‘A Look at Christmas in 2020’ also showed that people are worried about food shortages in shops, with 25% saying they had a concern due to COVID, backed up by 22% who were worried about Brexit shortages. Fender says: “17% of consumers admit they have started to stock up on food, drink and household items just in case there are shortages on the way. Equally, we know that wholesalers have made good contingency plans and are forecasting almost daily to ensure that shelves don’t fall empty and the Government supports fair distribution to all.”

Fender concludes: “Knowing your customer – whether a retailer or a foodservice operation – is going to make a big difference this year. Consumer spending and buying patterns have already changed and Christmas trading has already commenced. Wholesalers’ data will be showing them what is happening and has a key role in guiding their retailers with advice and support to help them make more possible this year.”

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