Almost three-quarters (71%) of shoppers will be put off doing their shopping in-store this Christmas due to COVID-19 restrictions, drastically shifting the proportion they spend online further, new research from Klarna and Retail Economics shows.
More than a third (37%) of Brits say that they will avoid physical shopping locations “as much as possible” over the festive period.
As retailers enter the so-called "golden quarter" for trading, it seems this Christmas will be approached like no other. With restrictions to control the number of people in stores and shopping centres in force, the usual scenes of bustling high streets are unlikely to be repeated this year.
Not only that, Christmas spending is expected to be pulled forward, leading to a bumper Black Friday spend, with a third (33%) of shoppers hoping to grab a Christmas bargain during Black Friday.
Usual festive trading is expected to be highly disrupted as more than half (56%) of shoppers expect to do a higher proportion of Christmas shopping online this year.
Since lockdown, shoppers have had to overcome the barriers of setting up online accounts as the avoidance of shops necessitates a shift in spending online. Such has been the acceptance of home shopping in recent months, that a massive 48% of consumers have shopped online for products that they previously only ever bought in-store.
Households are also expected to tighten their belts this Christmas, as more than a third (36%) of shoppers expect to cut back on their festive spending.
Retailers had hoped that shoppers would splash out at Christmas following a year of restricted spending, but this appears to only be the sentiment of the minority, with just 12% of consumers expecting to spend more on Christmas this year than last.
As shoppers look to carefully manage their finances, over three quarters (76%) of shoppers will rely on personal finances – either earnings or savings – to fund their Christmas spending this year, rather than take on debt.
The cautiousness of consumers means that more than twice as many Christmas shoppers would prefer to make use of deferred payments than enter into personal loans.
Klarna UK country lead, Alex Marsh, said: "Christmas 2020 will be like no other, with uncertainty at the forefront of people's minds. With such a large percentage of people opting out of their traditional Christmas shopping trips to the high street, it is essential that retailers are ready and optimise their online experience to meet this shift in consumer expectations.
“A smooth website experience and flexibility when it comes to payment are key to ensuring that brands are able to compete."
Retail Economics chief executive, Richard Lim, commented: “A successful Christmas trading period will be a make or break moment for many retailers who remain in survival mode following the impact of the pandemic.
“The major shifts in spending this Christmas will be towards those retailers who offer the best online proposition and who have the capacity to cope with the levels of demand.
“The unfortunate reality is that many consumers will shun the high street in favour of online to avoid crowded shopping destinations and the frustrations that will come about from restrictive measures such as limiting shopper numbers in stores and shopping centres.
“Christmas is likely to be much more planned this year as shoppers bring forward their festive spending to avoid these challenges. Black Friday will be more disruptive than ever as retailers extend the sales period to cope with demand.”
The new findings came from a consumer survey distributed on 22 September, 2020. It includes answers from a sample of over 2,000 nationally representative households.