The Christmas countdown begins, but who will be spending and when?

New Ipsos MORI research finds that the economic recovery doesn't necessarily mean a bumper year for Christmas spending.

As people open their advent calendars this weekend, at the back of most people’s minds will be the Christmas shopping they are yet to do. Sadly, new Ipsos MORI research finds that the economic recovery doesn’t necessarily mean a bumper year for Christmas spending.

The Ipsos Retail Traffic Index suggests that retailers can expect to see a small rise in spending, estimated at 0.6% up on December last year, while an Ipsos MORI survey reveals that 62% of Brits are expecting to spend the same on Christmas food and drink as they did last year, and a further 16% are in fact expecting to spend less. Londoners appear to be feeling the pinch more than most, with 26% of those in London saying they will be spending less on Christmas food and beverages this year.

Who will be doing a last minute shop?

If you are hitting the high street this week, you’ll likely see stores dominated by young people. 31% of 16-24 year-olds plan to start their shopping at the beginning of December, compared with 22% overall. Should you have to make a last minute dash to the shops during Christmas Eve, you are unlikely to see many women or older people dashing about in a panic. Just 3% of women do Christmas shopping in the week before the big day, compared to 10% of men. Young people are more likely to be last-minute shoppers, with 14% of men and women between the ages of 16-24 doing their shopping in the week before Christmas.

Is there a gender divide?

Women are more likely to begin their Christmas early: 22% of women will have started their Christmas shopping in September or October, compared with just 14% of men. In addition to reducing the stress associated with Christmas shopping, starting early is a way for some to manage the financial strain. 38% of British women shop early ‘to spread the cost of Christmas shopping over a period of time’, compared with just 22% of men.

Stephen Yap, Head of Ipsos MarketQuest, commented:

“Despite encouraging signs of a macroeconomic recovery, most Brits are yet to feel any real impact on their personal finances and this Christmas will still be one of relative austerity for many. It comes as no surprise that women tend to be more considered and prepared shoppers who shop to a budget, compared with men who are more likely to be impulse shoppers who leave it to the last minute.”

Key findings

  • The majority of consumers (49%) plan to do their Christmas shopping in the months nearing Christmas – particularly in November or beginning of December, 27% and 22% respectively. This mirrors the trends of last year’s Christmas shopping.
  • Women are more likely than men to start their Christmas shopping early - 22% of women have already started their Christmas shopping in September and/or October this year (vs. 14% of men). 28% of women admit that they ‘do their Christmas shopping early to avoid stress’.
  • Women also tend to ‘plan their Christmas shopping ahead of time’, 34% compared to 27% of men; and are more than men ‘to spread the costs of their Christmas Shopping over a period of time’, 38% vs. 22%.
  • Young consumers, age 16-24, are the most likely to ‘do their Christmas shopping last minute’. 31% of young buyers plan to start their Christmas shopping beginning of December, and 14% starting the week before Christmas (vs. 6% overall).
  • Majority of shoppers (62%) are planning to spend roughly the same on food and drinks this Christmas compared to last year. However, consumers in Greater London are the most likely to spend less compared to last year (26% vs. overall 16%).
  • The majority of shoppers plan to buy toys this Christmas from Amazon / eBay (26%), followed by the supermarket (13%). 

Technical note

  • Ipsos MORI research was conducted online among 1,000 GB adults aged 18+ between 8th - 11th November 2013.

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