A third of Brits have already finished their Christmas shopping

As we approach a Christmas like no other, shoppers are embracing an early start to the festivities. But there’s still plenty of opportunity for brands and retailers.
30 November 2020
Christmas decorations covid19 retail 2020
Joanna Parman

Strategic Insights Director, Worldpanel Division

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December has nearly arrived and it’s time to get out those advent calendars and start the official countdown to the big day. Christmas this year may be unlike any other, as we navigate a changing picture of COVID-19 restrictions impacting who we can see and where, and with the announcement last week that local restrictions and tiers are now back in force, there remains lots of uncertainty as to what shoppers will do between now and the end of the year.

And for once we are not complaining about the festive season starting too soon, instead embracing Christmas spirit to bring a bit of shine to life in another lockdown. In a survey of 46,000 of our panellists in November3, 37% said that they are putting up their Christmas decorations earlier this year because of COVID-19, with 28% saying that they intend to put up even more than usual this year. This appears to be a natural extension of the trend, seen throughout this year, of UK shoppers investing in their homes. With more DIY and garden jobs being carried out this year, and sales of painting and decorating products soaring, shoppers would naturally be more engaged in creating a special environment at home this Christmas. But how will this then influence where and how shoppers choose to spend their precious Christmas budgets this year?

A third of shoppers have ticked off their Christmas shopping list

When it comes to shopping for gifts, in October we found that 35% of shoppers were starting earlier than usual because of COVID-19. Four weeks on, and they’ve have made good progress. Over a third of shoppers have bought most or all of their main presents and Christmas cards. This is partly fuelled by the raft of early Black Friday deals that have become a key part of the Christmas season. Some 53% of our panellists had already used, or were intending to use, Black Friday deals to buy Christmas presents. The question is, what does that mean for the high streets that open up again this week? Is there more demand to come?

The good news is there is still a large portion of shoppers who’ve barely begun. 18% of our respondents haven’t started buying any main presents yet, which is great news for those retailers that have not been able to stay open in November. Also, 70% have bought less than half of their stocking fillers – those more impulsive purchases that retailers and brands can still influence in the last weeks of the Christmas season. We’re likely to see creative approaches, like hand sanitisers and soaps with different fragrances and colours, create a fun stocking filler option which ties into our heightened concerns around hygiene. Understanding what items shoppers still have left on their lists can help brands and retailers with ranging and merchandising in the final throes of the season, and to target the right shoppers with agile digital advertising.

Click and collect comes into its own 

Online retail continues to thrive, and weekly shares have crept back up towards the levels we saw in the first lockdown during November2. 85% of our survey respondents said they intend to use the online channel for their Christmas shopping, with 51% intending to use click and collect in the coming weeks. Click and collect is a key piece of the ‘online versus offline’ puzzle for retailers. It is a way of getting products quickly into the hands of shoppers whilst avoiding the high level of costs associated with home delivery. During the course of 2020, we have seen three times as many click and collect trips as shoppers look to shop responsibly amid the pandemic restrictions1.

It is also proving to be a lifeline for smaller, independent stores, potentially prompting a fundamental change of how these smaller businesses operate and, in turn, changing the shape of the high street. Understanding the role that these stores play in our lives from now on will be key. These retailers have the potential to offer a more personalised shopping experience, which in the current climate is a very attractive proposition. 51% of respondents stated that they’ll try to shop local at smaller stores this Christmas; this is a pandemic trend that looks like it is sticking.

Back to bricks and mortar

Despite all this online activity, it’s clear that people still want to shop and buy gifts in physical stores. Half of respondents to our survey are waiting for stores to open for their Christmas presents, and over a third of respondents who said that they weren’t intending to use click and collect this season said so because they’d rather shop in person and pick the items that they want. Getting the right gift for some means still being able to physically browse stores, and some shoppers are missing that tactile engagement.

This is a silver lining which hints at the enduring role of the physical store and the high street in our shopping habits in the future. Understanding how to range effectively to balance the role of the physical and the online offering is key for any retailer to succeed into 2021. 


  1. Kantar, Worldpanel Plus, Ecommerce panel, 4 w/e Nov 2020 vs 4 w/e March 2020
  2. Kantar, Worldpanel Plus, Ecommerce Daily Tracker, w/e 24 Nov 2020
  3. Kantar, Worldpanel Plus, Mobile Survey (46,709 shoppers), 9 Nov 2020 – 23 Nov 2020
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