As the Summer holidays draw to a traffic-jammed close, retail professionals – many of whom are probably stuck on the M5 as we speak – are turning their attentions to Christmas and peak. So too are shoppers. But are the two aligned?
Recent research by CJ Affiliate in its Holiday Intelligence Report, finds that shoppers aren’t awaiting for Black Friday to fire the starting gun on their Christmas shopping, but are more likely to be starting their Christmas shopping from the first week of November this year, driven more by trying to spread the cost and get things done than by fighting over a bargain.
In fact, ‘Back-to-school’ sales has become the third largest ‘peak’ in the UK retail calendar, so you could argue that this has kick started the Christmas peak.
According to the report, week two of November has seen 29% growth year-on-year last year and the share of revenue for the weeks of Black Friday and Cyber Monday decreased from 2016 to 2017. These weeks saw the least amount of growth for the whole of the 9-week holiday season – year-on-year order growth was only 14%.
Is the idea of bargain hunting and peak over?
Well yes and no. The CJ Affiliate study suggests that there is a spread going on, something backed up by a separate study from Rakuten Marketing which suggests that almost half (49%) of shoppers worldwide admit to have started their Christmas shopping as far back as July.
But this doesn’t mean that Black Friday won’t be a big deal: of course it will. While shoppers naturally want to spread the cost and feel that they have to make a start on the present buying, they are also going to be looking for bargains and, for many shoppers, all the hoopla around Black Friday focusses the mind on the fact that Christmas shopping needs to be done.
The issue is that ‘Peak’ is no longer a single day or weekend that sees a massive spike. Instead, Black Friday sets in train increased buying as shoppers start to stuff their stockings. In the days before Black Friday was a thing – not that long ago here in the UK for sure, as we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the kick-off for Black Friday in the US – retailers saw a spike in sales from around November onwards in the run up to Christmas. Peak is nothing new.
What is different these days is managing preparations for peak in the omni-channel world – and this year more than any other, this is likely to be one to watch as the dwindling and hard-pressed bricks and mortar retailers have to pull something out of the hat to make in-store as useful as online.
Game is trying to bridge the gap between its online and High Street operations by opening up in-store gaming theatres, where players can try out the latest kit and games.
The new Belong arena opened in the Westfield shopping centre in Shepherd’s Bush in West London, and is the first new venture since Game formed a partnership with Sports Direct. A second Belong arena is scheduled to open in Thurrock on the eastern flank of London next month.
Each arena has space for 50 gamers to play the latest games on the latest hardware and mark a move by the online company to start to offer a real-world customer experience for its customers and prospects.
However, the one to watch is Debenhams. As its contemporary, House of Fraser, closes its doors – and its website – while new owner Sports Direct gets to grips with what to do with it, Debenhams is at least trying to get with the programme. It has partnered with Doddle to allow click and collect of things bought not just from Debenhams but also Asos, Amazon, Missguided and Wiggle, at any of its stores.
This is the sort of thinking that is needed across retail – true omni-channel, but with a raft of partnerships. The fact that Amazon orders can now be collected at Debenhams is a brave move. Asos, Missguided and Wiggle all augment what Debenhams sells; Amazon directly competes.
This is the kind of thinking, however, that is needed. As we pointed out back in June, established retailers – especially department stores – need to get into bed with marketplaces to have any chance of survival. They need to become the High Street presence of the marketplace.
Click and collect is a start, but it is going to have to go further. And this Christmas, peak shopping will show just what can and can’t work. Hopefully, Debenhams will see an uplift from getting all those Amazonistas into their stores. Other’s too will hopefully take note.
But as thoughts turn to Peak 2019, many retailers are going to have to look not only at the spread of peak, but also how to leverage it across all their access points.