How important is Christmas to retailers?

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has released a ‘Festive FAQs 2015’ report, which aims to answer some of the questions the retail industry has about the Christmas period.

The document reveals that 13 per cent of all sales in the UK happened in December last year. That’s nearly £42 billion of sales.

While the BRC points out that the figure is not all Christmas shopping, as it only covers the five weeks of December, the firm said it does show how critical the trading period is to many retailers.

IT seems there will be strong demand for furniture, household appliances and watches and the report says found that families expect to spend £796 on average celebrating Christmas this year, with one in six people having already started their festive shopping.

When discussing footfall, BRC said: “Our September BRC-Springboard Footfall Monitor showed that footfall was down by 0.2 per cent, this is up on the 1.6 per cent fall the previous month. The trend in footfall over the last two years has generally been positive for retail parks but falling on the high street and in shopping centres.”

When it comes to online shopping in September, the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor showed online growth of 14.2 per cent, ahead of the 12-month average.

“We expect more people to click into Christmas than ever before this year, as online continues to be a steady contributor to non-food growth,” said BRC.

“The rapid rise of tablet and smartphone ownership means that m-commerce is a bigger buzzword than ever this Christmas.”

Other stats from the report reveal that the click and collect market is set to be worth £4 billion by 2018 (according to Verdict), and people are feeling more positive about the year ahead and appetites for making major purchases are increasing (according to GfK).

The BRC has also revealed the results of its BRC-Bond Dickinson Retail Employment Monitor for Q3 2015, which indicates that 56 per cent of retailers intend to increase staffing levels in the next three months. This is up from 42 per cent this time last year.

The number of full-time jobs rose by 0.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2015 compared with the same period last year. This is the fastest rate of growth in hours worked since March 2014.

In the third quarter of 2015, the number of outlets rose by 1.1 per cent. Both food and non-food retailers contributed to the overall increase in the number of stores.

BRC chief executive, Helen Dickinson, commented: “Retailers are beginning to prepare for extra demand at Christmas which shows in the rise of hours across the industry of 0.8 per cent. Growth is spread across the whole of the industry with both food and non- food retailers reporting rises. This pauses a 19 consecutive month decline in FTE reported by food retailers.

“The news that Government policies could add £14 billion to the retail wages, training and rates bill over the next five years casts a shadow over the possibility of future strong jobs growth. We will be watching the figures very closely to see how the impact of this additional burden affects employment prospects in retail going forward. A commitment from the Chancellor to keep his promise of fundamental reform of rates would instil more confidence in retailers for the future.”

Despite this, a new report from The Local Data Company reveals that Britain’s shop vacancy remains at its lowest level since April 2010.

The town vacancy rate fell by 0.1 per cent in October to 11 per cent when compared to the previous month. The majority of regions saw no change in their vacancy rate in the past month, apart from Wales (-0.1%), West Midlands (-0.2%), Yorkshire and the Humber (-0.1%) and North West (-0.1%). Interestingly the only region to see an increase in its town vacancy rate was Greater London (+0.1%). Compared to the previous year, all of the regions across England, and Wales and Scotland saw a fall in their town vacancy rate.

The biggest fall in town vacancy rate, was in towns in the North East and North West with both regions seeing a one per cent fall in their town vacancy rates.

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