It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas in retail. In markets like personal care and confectionery, Christmas is treated as a category in its own right, with dedicated budgets set aside for promoting it. But that’s only part of the story. Now Christmas is Omnichannel, the growing question is, can retailers cope with the online demand?

chaz“The Twelve Days of Christmas” doesn’t come close to conveying its duration; these days the Christmas season goes on in store for nigh on five months. Gifting and seasonal items start appearing on shelf in early September and being bought by those pathologically well-organised souls who want everything home and wrapped seriously in advance.

At the other end of the timeline are Traditional Catholics, members of the Eastern Orthodox Church and others of differing persuasions who hold back on their Immaculate Consumption until near the big day, but then keep their decorations up until February.

For big-box superstores and convenience format stores alike, you don’t have to believe in anything or anyone to recognise Christmas as the Saviour of Shopping. For retailers and their staff, the job of Christmas replenishment means having to work when other people are off having a good time, but for the business Christmas is a gift-wrapped contribution to the bottom line.

The serious run up to Christmas in terms of purchases of food and drinks and pretty much everything else starts in December. Christmas is the Mother of all Big Nights In, cue for two weeks or more of blissful indulgence. For shoppers who like their festivities full on, the cycle of planning, shopping, cooking and getting through it all for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, then doing it all over again for the New Year’s break is its own reward.

And don’t forget all the essentials shoppers need to survive Christmas – the distress purchases like spare batteries for the kids’ toys, first aid items and, in the aftermath of all that kissing under the mistletoe, the cough and cold cures.

Supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains have had plenty of time to get used to this scenario each year. But the big difference now is that we live in an omnichannel world where consumers expect everything immediately. On the last Friday of November we have Black Friday, the big-discount shopping day that ushers in the Christmas holiday season. Last year IMRG estimated British shoppers spent £810 million online that day, creating a ‘mega spike’ in demand. Online shopping tracker Postcode Anywhere said the event resulted in over 400,000 orders placed in just 24 hours. Achtung Christmas!

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