It's the most wonderful time of the year

Or is it?

Back at the beginning of October, Trinity McQueen conducted a piece of research that looked at shopping in the lead up to Christmas. One area that we were particularly interested in was how people feel about Christmas shopping at various stages of the season. We’d heard from other research that Christmas shopping can be stressful, but anecdotally we also knew that some people really enjoyed the whole thing. Could both be true? Here’s what we found out.

1. Most people genuinely like Christmas shopping

We spoke to a nationally representative sample of 1,500 people and three quarters of them (75%) said that they either loved or liked Christmas shopping. Maybe surprisingly, men and women tend to share the same opinion on this. The biggest difference comes from looking at age groups. Those aged 18-34 are significantly more likely to say they love or like Christmas shopping (84%) than those aged 55+ (64%). That’s not to say that older people don’t like Christmas shopping, its just that they’re not as much in love with it as younger people. Also, very few people actually loathe Christmas shopping. This is limited to just 6% of the population and these people are mostly older people who live alone.

That said, despite this overall positivity, we also know that…

2. Emotions felt about Christmas shopping change as Christmas Day gets closer

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We asked people to pick the emotions that they felt at different stages of the Christmas Shopping season, from early November through to the weeks before Christmas Day. This revealed that although Christmas shopping is generally liked, over time the degree of negativity increases and positivity falls.

In early November, people tell us that they feel relaxed and happy about Christmas shopping, and there is little negativity overall. By Black Friday, excitement reaches its peak although there is a significant fall in relaxation and calmness, perhaps reflecting the nature of this short sales period. Early December also tends to be more positive emotionally rather than negative, but by the last two weeks before Christmas, the key emotions around Christmas shopping are stress and pressure, whilst inspiration, pleasure, and enthusiasm all fall significantly.

So, what does this mean for retailers?

The key thing must be to take these changes in emotional state in mind as the Christmas shopping season progresses. To begin with, harness the excitement that people have in the build up to Christmas, but from the second week of December onwards, switch to a more supportive, ‘here-to-help’ gifting solutions based message when negative emotions are more prevalent. This might include a switch in tone in email comms, more staff to help make decisions/ come up with solutions in store, or delivery solutions that match the needs of customers (e.g. flexible delivery options).

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