47% of UK shoppers expect bigger discounts this winter as bargains and family-only gift shopping takes priority

Three-quarters of UK consumers state they’ll cut back on Christmas spending this year, and almost half care less about Black Friday shopping. What are the lookouts to get people to spend in the festive quarter?

Two-thirds of UK consumers are prioritising good deals this Christmas, with almost half (47%) sending a clear message to retailers that they are expected to discount more heavily as the cost of living crisis impacts Christmas purchase intentions.

Gifts for immediate family are the focus for 65% of UK shoppers, says new research from Havas Media Group. But those expecting gifts from friends or extended family may be disappointed, with just 7% and 6% of consumers saying they will be shopping for those this year – markedly down from the 31% and 25% in 2021.

The survey of 1,000 UK consumers in August 2022 found that people are intending to shop for Christmas mainly in October and November this year, with 12% saying they have already started.

While this is a similar trend to 2021, this may impact the ‘impact’ of Black Friday on the drive to spend, particularly with Amazon confirming a second Prime Day event next month ahead of it for the first time ever.

Shoppers are relying heavily on bargains this winter, with 30% stating they would be looking for discounts, rising to 42% of 18-to-24 year olds.

Laura Bebbington, Managing Partner, Insight, Havas Media Group, said: “Our latest study paints a fascinating picture of the way in which consumer attitudes towards winter shopping have changed post-COVID and in light of growing financial pressures. With a greater need to economise this year, many people are seeking out bargains and prioritising gifts for their closest loved ones.

“In contrast, younger consumers are displaying less caution with their spending on both Black Friday and Christmas this year, perhaps indicating that they’re more positive about the road to recovery from the cost-of-living crisis, or the long-term impact on their finances.”

Cost of living causes Christmas cutbacks

Havas Media Group’s research cemented the now unsurprising fact that 54% intend to spend less – or nothing at all – on Christmas than last year, with 73% identifying the cost of living crisis as the main driver.

The 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 age groups were most likely to state that they would be spending less this year, while 13% of 18-to-24 year olds and 15% of 25-to-34 year olds said they would be spending more.

Almost six in 10 said their money-saving plans for Christmas involved buying less expensive gifts, while 45% said they would be spending less on food and groceries this year, and 43% would be buying gifts for fewer people. More than three in 10 were cutting back on pre-Christmas celebrations.

In terms of the gifts people intend to buy, 42% indicated they would be spending less in clothing, footwear and accessories stores, and small electrical goods. Spending was down in all categories this year, said Havas Media Group, but the highest proportion of those saying they would spend more (18%) was in food and groceries.

Black Friday – no longer the ‘golden quarter’ shopping beast?

The research also looked at trends for the often much-anticipated ‘Black Friday’ shopping events. It found a mixture of people looking forward to taking advantage of the expected bargains, but also a feeling of dread given a lack of money to spend in the first place.

Younger respondents were more likely to be excited about Black Friday, with 54% agreeing that they were “excited” about getting a bargain, compared to 36% across all those surveyed. Overall though, 48% told the survey that they cared less about Black Friday than in previous years.

Three in 10 (31%) told the survey that they intended to spend less on Black Friday shopping this year than last year, with Havas Media Group highlighting that the cost of living crisis in the UK is becoming as significant on spending intent as the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years.

In fact, 7% said they did spend on Black Friday last year but would not be doing so this year – with the proportion rising to 14% among 45-54 year old shoppers. Just under a third said they intended to spend the same as last year, and 10% intended to use Black Friday to spend more.

For those that did intend to purchase on Black Friday, gifts for immediate family topped the priority list, with 30% citing this. Just 11% said they would be searching for gifts for themselves – a significant drop from the 25% saying the same in 2021 – while Black Friday purchase intent for gifts for friends or extended family stood at just 6% and 4% respectively.

Hybrid trend extends to winter shopping

Just over half of those surveyed said they planned to do their Christmas shopping in a hybrid way this year, using a mix of physical stores and digital retail. One-fifth stated intentions to shop online only this year (down from 27% in 2021), while 19% were looking to shop exclusively in physical stores, whether in a shopping centre or on the high street.

Similar intentions rang true for those intending to shop on Black Friday, with a quarter intending to shop both online and in-store, and 29% relying only on digital retail.

Pedro Ramos, Head of e-commerce, Havas Market, said: “Post-Covid, and in the current financial climate, consumers are more conscious of how and where they spend their money, so brands will need to make an effort to promote the online and offline experience synchronously, so that the consumer feels captivated, part of the process and in control of their choices.

“We also see big variations in attitudes to spending this festive period, meaning that brands should take a highly-targeted, personalised approach to Black Friday and Christmas communications, harnessing the most meaningful media that offers a seamless path-to-purchase and enables people to shop quickly and easily this festive season.”