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Shopping for Christmas
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Shopping for Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013: First online Christmas, First Mobile Christmas. Pretty encouraging

The Centre for Retail Research provides here its independent forecast, sponsored in 2013 by RetaIlMeNot, Vouchercodes,, and Bons-de-Reduction for the Christmas season 2013, covering offline and online sales, purchases per household and sales per person on gifts.

We expect Christmas 2013 in the UK to be better than last year with sales growth of 2.1% compared to last year's eventual outturn of 0.9%. The improvements in the UK economy and an increase in consumer confidence will help retail spending this Christmas. A significant feature is ecpected to be the fact many families are looking for a 'traditional' family Christmas, perhaps less bling but more conviviality. Nonetheless spending on items like games consoles, tablets and smartphone is likely to break records. The only European country likely to do better than the UK will be Germany with growth of 3.0% compared to last year.

Why is Christmas Important? The graph of monthly retail sales (between 2001 and 2012) shows that sales in every January are terrible, then rise through summer to a peak in September, then after a further lull, sales jump by an average of 60% to an annual peak in December.

UK Monthly Retail Sales 2001 - 2013

The Forecast UK

We forecast that Christmas sales in 2013 (the 6 weeks mid-November to the end of December) will rise to 72.7 bn, a rise in real terms of 2.1% over last year's 71.2 bn. Last year, after a good start, retail spending was quite flat at 0.9% growth so retailers will be watching carefully to ensure that customers keep shopping. These figures are based on 1,000 person surveys in the UK, US, Germany and France about spending intentions in October and discussions with retail businesses.

What Will People Buy?

Consumers are anxious about inflation, particularly energy prices. They will spend more on food and drink and decorations, but a smaller rise in gift spending.

Spending per household

Total spending per household 758.35

Gifts 58.3% of spending: 442.40 (1.8% cp 2012)
Food & Drink 28.4% of spending: 215.50 (+2.5%)
Travel 9.8% of spending: 74.36 (+2.1%)
Decorations 3.5% of spending: 26.09 (+4.6%)

  • Spending on gifts is the biggest item, representing 58.3% of Christmas spending, a small decline in share (-0.2%) compared to 2012.
  • Spending on decorations is to rise by 4.6%, aimed at making the home more 'Christmassy'. In 2011 it was 19.79.
  • Christmas-related travel now represents almost 10% of Christmas spending.
  • Spending on Food and Drink by 2013 will have risen by 17.0%, reflecting both food price rises as well as an increasing taste for luxury.

Online Spending at Christmas: one-in-five goods bought online

We expect online Christmas spending to break through the 20% barrier, rising to 14.6 billion in 2013 (a rise of 15.8%). The online share of Christmas spending will be 20.1% compared to last year's 17.7%, meaning that one in five goods will be bought online. UK online retail sales will be higher both in value and as a proportion of all-retail sales than any other country in Europe.

This means that once again, retail sales through shops will fall in absolute terms, this year by -0.9%.

Online Spending at Christmas: Mobile mCommerce growth of 163%

We expect mobile spending (transactions through tablets and smartphones) to grow to 1.29 billion, with tablet sales growing by 538% (reaching 39.3% of mobile sales) and smartphone transactions to grow by 337%. Mobile ecommerce will be used even more widely to check prices and stock. Mobile is the fastest growing element in the most successful part of retailing and 2013 is expected to see the widest use of mobile ecommerce.

What Will be Spent on Gifts?

We will release this important information later in the Christmas season.