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Visa predict that 23rd December in the early afternoon will be the busiest shopping time of the Christmas period but who will be the winners and the losers?

Visa predict that 23rd December in the early afternoon will be the busiest shopping time of the Christmas period but who will be the winners and the losers? Normally the big four supermarkets rejoice but this year all are having a torrid time attacked from below by the discounters, Aldi and Lidl and at the top end by the premium stores, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer whilst also suffering from having too much retail space as they try to adjust to on-line shopping. We haven’t heard the torrid tales of failed delivery from the on-line stores as it seems shoppers have allowed more time and the stores together with their couriers been more efficient.

But the real issue has been the change of how the customer now shops and the retailers not being able to hold their nerve. Black Friday last year just created a shopping discount spree at the expense of premium sales in the run up to Christmas. Though this year we are seeing January sales starting before Christmas. As the customers still have less money to spend then they are getting better at buying and less influenced by the ‘special’ offers as they learn the supermarket tricks. The success of the discounters and the premium stores shows how shoppers go to one for their convenience and routine purchases and then to the other for their quality treats and so deserting the big four.

But how does this impact on the independent retailer – obviously the unseasonably warm weather has been an issue for outfitters as no-one has been needing to buy winter clothes. The truth is it depends how the independent has changed as the market has changed. Effective use of shop space, customer service and ability to react to changes are now paramount. On-line hasn’t necessary had it easy as margins have been eroded by the home traders, often ignoring the distance selling regulations, have utilised social media sites and Ebay to market goods at unsustainable margins. This has been aided by the wholesalers desperation and willingness to supply almost anyone without minimum order values. The retailers will hurt even more as the full impact of the national living wage comes through.

But if retailers generally are having a hard time and their suppliers suffer too you would think the customers would be winning. However the consumer strapped for cash concentrates more on true value highlighted by the Asda and Morrisons trials of selling ‘wonky’ vegetables being so successful.

So we will still celebrate Christmas and the New Year but I suspect our retailers may not be as happy. The world is adapting to an economy which can no longer grow by increasing everyone’s credit but to one which can only have steady, restrained and hard earned growth – the retailers are learning there is a finite market and more floor space, longer opening hours and loyalty cards does not necessarily keeps the tills ringing.


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