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Holiday spending slows but reveals positive outlook for post-pandemic retail

10 Dec 2020

UK shoppers are eager to return to previous shopping habits once pandemic is over, but don’t want recent innovations to be forgotten

London, December 10, 2020 – Capgemini today announces the second of its holiday trends research, which shows that UK consumers are displaying caution in their spending this holiday season. The study has found that 76% of UK consumers have done less holiday shopping than usual.

This news will come as a disappointment to retailers, as 45% had expected an increase in sales. However, many admitted they were less confident in their ability to accurately predict sales patterns this holiday season compared to last year (39% compared to 55% in 2019).

Today’s findings show the drop in spending is mainly due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions (31%) preventing consumers from shopping in store, coupled with a decrease in disposable income (21%), as well as people giving fewer gifts because they’re seeing fewer family members (20%). These factors are also impacting what consumers are buying: 48% of holiday season purchases are for essential items, with consumers prioritising clothing (33%), beauty/personal care products (27%) and electrical items (17%).

With prudence top of mind for consumers, almost a third (28%) cite discounts as the most influential factor when making a purchase, and that the importance of price cannot be underestimated. While more than a third (31%) are focused on buying only the things they need, 28% indicated they have been persuaded by a discount to buy something they hadn’t planned to purchase, 15% have yet to buy something in the hope of a better deal soon, and 57% say they have made the most of free shipping options this year.

While spending might be down, consumers are embracing new shopping formats. 50% have shopped more online this festive season than ever before, while almost a quarter (23%) say they have purchased more locally produced goods than in previous years. And the online shopping trend is set to continue. While more than a quarter of consumers surveyed (28%) had never shopped online before the pandemic, 50% are now more comfortable with this format and 50% say they will shop online more in future.

The outlook for in-store shopping is also positive. While the preference for in-store shopping on Black Friday dropped from 39% last year to 28% this year according to Capgemini’s first holiday season survey, findings from the second study, which focuses solely on consumer attitudes, suggest shoppers are missing the in-store experience. 62% of consumers would like to return to their previous shopping habits once the pandemic is over, with 64% stating that they miss shopping in-store. But consumers don’t want the innovations that retailers introduced during the pandemic to be forgotten. New technologies which were brought in to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, such as contactless payments and self-service kiosks, encouraged 42% of shoppers to venture in-store. Now, almost three in five (59%) want these technologies to remain in the future.

“It looks like 2020 is going to end with further challenge for retailers in the UK. The latest lockdowns, rising health concerns and the toll on disposable income of furlough and job loss, is dampening the amount many consumers are willing and able to spend over the festive period. Discounts welded appropriately are helping to sway some to spend a little extra and essential spend categories will be more insulated, but those most exposed to gifting this year will feel the pain in their top line, as limitations & concerns on social contact reduce the appetite for many to gift outside the household”

“What is clear from this research also, is that 2021 will be a year where omnichannel will become a major battle ground, as a huge number of additional ‘omni shoppers’ have been created by the forced adoption of more digital ways of shopping. As they return to ‘traditional’ shops, they will bring with them heightened expectations – especially with regards to contactless, convenience and consistency as they shop across channels for the first time. This is likely to expose cracks in the experiences and services many retailers provide and force a rapid evolution of capabilities to compete.” Commented Steve Hewett, Global VP, Retail Customer Experience, Capgemini Invent

The first part of Capgemini’s holiday shopping research can be found here.


The second consumer survey was conducted between 30th November and 2nd December among 7,543 consumers in the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark by Sapio on behalf of Capgemini. Interviews were conducted online using an email invitation and an online survey.

The first part of Capgemini’s holiday shopping research was based around two surveys: one of 851 retail managers across six regions: UK, US, Germany, France, Netherlands and Scandinavia, in companies with at least 250 employees; the second of 6,588 consumers across the same six regions. Both surveys were conducted between 13th and 19th October.

About Capgemini

Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. The Group is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organizations to realize their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. A responsible and multicultural company of 265,000 people in nearly 50 countries, Capgemini’s purpose is to unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17 billion.

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