Christmas worth £42bn to UK economy

UK households will spend an average of more than £800 on Christmas this year, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

The BRC said consumers would benefit from a third consecutive year of falling prices because price rises caused by the falling value of sterling have yet to kick in.

“Now is a good time to be a shopper in the UK,” said the BRC in a report. “Competition in the industry has meant that prices have been falling for more than three years. A rise in prices is expected next year as a result of the devaluation, but as yet we are not seeing increasing costs of imports feed through onto the shop floor.”

Based on 2015 figures the BRC says December is the UK’s busiest month shopping, with around 12% of all purchases taking place in the month, accounting for around £42bn. Demand is expected to be strong for jewellery and watches, furniture, toys and baby equipment and household textiles.

The average home will splash out £809.97, mainly on food, drink and travel, while decorations and gifts will account for 58.5% of the budget.

Smartphones and tablets will account for 42% of online Christmas spending.

It is a particularly important time of year for food retailers, with grocery sales in the week before Boxing Day 2015 rising by 8% compared with the previous year.

Supermarket sales during Christmas week are 43% higher than in a normal week and this year, with an extra day of food shopping, the BRC is predicting an even bigger rise in sales.

“With Christmas falling on a Sunday this year (compared with Friday in 2015), we would expect many consumers to be food shopping up until the Friday in the Christmas week,” it said.

“Competition is likely to be fierce once again, with discounters proving a popular choice last year.”

Black Friday has changed the way people shop at Christmas in recent years, with the Christmas trading period now beginning in November.

There are now two peak periods of trading activity. One takes place in the run-up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday and the other immediately before the Christmas peak.

In October online sales grew by 11.1%, just ahead of the 12 month average of 10.8%. The rise of e-commerce means that Christmas Day itself has become an important shopping day.

  • Around 10m turkeys are sold over the Christmas period.
  • 8m natural Christmas trees are sold each year.
  • UK households consume around 25m Christmas puddings annually.

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