Kemp says: “There is a ‘look, touch, buy’ cycle that drives Christmas spending. Its timing depends on your customers. For example, if they are older they may have more time and so will prepare earlier.” He explains that three weeks before Christmas, customers start spotting the product they will buy. Two weeks later they interact with it in-store by touching it, then they return a week before Christmas to buy.
Kemp says this can teach retailers when to start their Christmas campaigns. “If you merchandise for the festive season too early, shoppers will not respond to it. But if you leave it too late they will already be making decisions about what to buy,” he says.
Kemp adds that the best way to make sense of this delicate balancing act is to observe your customers – a skill that may come more easily to independents. Nick Preston, brand manager at fashion chain Republic, agrees that observation is key. “Christmas is no different to any other time of year,” he says. “Too many people moan that sales aren’t great, but they don’t do anything about it. Get out there and look at what the kids are wearing. If you don’t get it right, someone else will.”
He adds that if it is presented correctly, fashion can win big at Christmas. “A lot of people will spend more on themselves at Christmas – they will be going out more. Whether it’s to office parties or family gatherings, people are more concerned than ever about how their peer group perceives them.”
A spokeswoman for TNS Worldpanel Fashion underlines the point. “Consumers are spending less per item on gifts, which have now dropped to an average of just £10,” she says. “But prices for self-gifting at Christmas have held.”