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What’s Ahead For Christmas 2021 – Independent Retail Experts Weigh In

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 25, 2021

With the all important 4th quarter right around the corner, many independent retailers and brands are wondering what is ahead.

After a year of disruption, many retailers are pinning their hopes on a bumper holiday season, but what are the key themes that will be impacting the industry this year?

E-commerce continues to dominate

Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) highlights that online shopping has more than doubled its share of retail sales in the last 18 months.  He notes that it has“fallen back” with the re-opening of the high street, but it is still “more than 40% of the total spend”.  “I suspect it will stay at that level and Christmas may push it higher. Much will depend on the supply chain…and any potential lockdowns in the autumn” he adds.

Alex Ryan, Consumer Products Marketing Consultant and owner of Small Business 101 also emphasizes the importance of selling online but stresses the need for small businesses to regularly test their websites.

“Busy websites can break or get overloaded, and there’s nothing more frustrating than checking your sales on a Monday morning to discover your payment gateway snapped on Friday night” he says via email.   

He also notes that this is not the time to make changes to websites, until “after the January sales”.

Disruption ahead

As small businesses plan out their Christmas sales strategies and targets, understanding what customers’ spending habits might be this year is key. 

Consumers are likely to make Christmas extra special this year after many being away from loved ones during Christmas 2020.   Goodacre foresees a “bumper time for retailers with demand being higher”.

However, one of the looming issues this year, threatening to “ruin Christmas” will be shipping and supply.  In order to meet their customer’s needs and therefore boost sales, businesses need to plan ahead, especially with regard to stock quantities.

Goodacre clarifies: “The real challenge for the retailer is the supply chain and ensuring that the stock is available at the right time – so look to buy stock now and start the marketing for the festive period now. It is likely that Christmas shopping may start earlier than usual, especially if the difficulties in the supply chains continue”. 

Chris Biggs, Global Head of Retail for The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) also points to the dangers of disruption, adding:  “consumers will need to buy early for Christmas if they want certain things. Shipping and oil costs have risen and there are major supply issues, driven by shipping disruption, container shortages, COVID staffing challenges and Brexit red tape. We don’t expect these supply issues to ease until the end of 2021 or the start of 2022”.

Safety first

No Christmas outlook advice can be shared without mentioning COVID guidelines. Small businesses involved in any face-to-face experiences with their customers, whether a physical store, Christmas markets or events must be fully compliant with any government advice, particularly around public safety. 

Biggs stresses: “all retailers (large or small) should maintain their due diligence with regards to Covid-19 by continuing to encourage hand washing and social distancing in order to avoid any further lockdowns”.

Goodacre concurs: “Offering customers a safe and positive in-person shopping experience will be critical”.

The Christmas 2021 outlook is positive for small businesses, with many customers ready to make it a year to remember after the disappointment of 2020.  However, for retail businesses to make the most of this opportunity, they need to take into account and plan for the challenges of supply chain disruption, shipping delays and the need to protect themselves, and customers, from the impact of COVID.


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