It might still be pumpkin season, but the British Retail Consortium is pressing ahead with a new advertising campaign urging the public to start their Christmas shopping early. The publicity drive to ‘shop early, start wrapping, enjoy Christmas’ launches today and aims to spread demand during the busiest shopping season of the year.
The BRC says it hopes to “encourage the public to embrace the true Christmas spirit by thinking of others and preventing the usual retail rush seen through late November and December both in stores and online.”
Since March, the body reports that retailers have strengthened their supply chains, as well as invested hundreds of millions to put in place additional safety and hygiene measures across their stores. By motivating the public to start early and spread their shopping, the sector aims boost sales in the coming weeks while keeping customers and staff covid-safe.
While the pandemic has hammered the high street and cost tens of thousands of jobs, an early Christmas bounce is already being felt by some retailers, with sales up by 5.6% in September against a 0.9% decline last year.
John Lewis’s online Christmas shop opened in August after a spike in searches from customers. On Friday, the department store announced it would be investing £1 billion to expand its online business and diversify beyond retail.
Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “BRC’s September sales figures show signs some customers have already started a little earlier than usual, as spreading your Christmas shopping has many benefits in today’s climate – from safety to managing finances.”
“While celebrations will no doubt be a little different this year, we know customers want to keep Christmas special. That’s why we’re encouraging people to shop early and prevent the last-minute rush so their fellow customers and all the store colleagues, warehouse workers and delivery drivers working behind the scenes, have the space they need to stay safe and well.”
The BRC ads will feature on national and local radio stations from today and will run across national print and social channels through until early November.
Even before the pandemic, online shopping was up by 5% on last year and has seen growth rates of 40% to 50% according to IMRG, the industry body for online retailers. A huge surge of Christmas shopping is expected to take place online this year as more customers stay at home. Andy Mulcahy from IMRG warned that customers may miss out if they leave their shopping until the last minute.
“We think the volumes are going to be really very excessive this year,” said Mulcahy. “If you can spread out your shopping and do quite a lot of it in November, maybe even a bit of it now, then that would really help.”