Whilst many eagerly await the John Lewis ad to confirm it’s the start of Christmas and therefore you are officially allowed to buy that first box of Quality Street and break out the mince pies, for many UK consumers the happy cheery TV ads evoke only a feeling of dread. 

UK shoppers are set to spend an average of £821.25 this year, an increase on last year.   Is this simply the sign of an increasingly polarised society when it comes to disposable income?  The Trussell Trust would argue yes, reporting that foodbanks are expecting their busiest Christmas ever as the most stretched UK shoppers struggle to afford even the basics.  Supermarkets have been quick to respond to this need this year and have upped their social responsibility game accordingly.  Aldi are to give away all its unsold fresh food to those most in need when they close their doors on Christmas eve and Iceland have pledged to offer NHS and emergency services staff 10% discount in the run up to Christmas.

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And then there’s whole other layer of UK shoppers who might not be on the breadline but aren’t exactly merrily skipping down to Marks and Spencer to place their Christmas food order.  The penny watching savvy shoppers who will find a way to afford everything they need but are still acutely aware that the cost of their Christmas will increase this year.  Good HouseKeeping’s annual Christmas dinner comparison basket shows that feeding a family of eight will cost 16% more this Christmas, with the cheapest basket from Lidl at £25.53 to the most expensive from Waitrose at £41.47. 

Is it all Brexit’s fault?  Well it’s hard to ignore the impact that an uncertain economic future has on consumer spending and the fact is it will probably play out a different influence on different consumer types.  Some may well tighten their belts further and be sure to not over spend; “after all it’s only a glorified Sunday lunch, right?”  Others may throw caution to the wind, sick of watching the pennies all year round “what the heck…it’s only once a year”. What is important though is that retailers recognise the different need states of its customers and offer solutions that match.

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