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Xmas binge leaves shoppers stuffed

Binge then whinge has become the predictable pattern of shopper behaviour over the festive season in recent years. This year seems to have been no different, although after a late-breaking super-binge we can expect the ensuing whinge to be even more pronounced than usual.
There is no question that a growing number of shoppers waited for the Sales before committing to their Christmas shopping in earnest, but once they got a sniff of a bargain there was no stopping them (several stores marked down their stock before Christmas, whether they were publicly declaring to be on Sale or not).

Not even Christmas Day itself interrupted the nation’s favourite pastime; about £84 million was spent online on December 25 and many shoppers’ first thought on Boxing Day was to make a stampede to the shops. According to research firm FootFall, shopper numbers were up by 25% compared with December 26 2006.

Of course, the papers have been full of stories that retailers’ now traditional pre-Christmas scaremongering of tough trading was once again unfounded. But while top-line numbers may have been up, it will be interesting to see what the effect on margins has been. Many retailers lured in shoppers with deep discounting very early on in the Sale process – straight in at 70% on some stock.

One retail-watcher referred to the festive blow-out as the shoppers’ “last hurrah” before they finally face up to the grim realities of the credit crunch and falling house prices. Some very strong fashion trends (and some favourable weather) are desperately needed if retailers are to continue to keep shoppers’ minds off such matters. Here’s hoping for both in 2008.

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