‘Tis the season…to be aware and prepared

It’s been a mixed bag of messages since ‘Cyber Monday’ – as the busiest online shopping day of the year has been dubbed – signalled the start of the Christmas trading season. Since then John Lewis has announced soaring sales of its Christmas lines, in thanks no doubt to its tear-jerking festive ad. But on the other hand retail giants Marks & Spencer and Topshop have respectively reported ‘weak’ and ‘falling’ sales and profit margins.

It would be fair to say, considering the economy, that trading conditions will likely remain generally harsh, a situation confirmed by Deloitte’s recent forecast predicting no growth in retail sales before 2013. In fact their exact words: “whilst consumers tend to display remarkable resilience at this time of year, the gradual squeeze on disposable income means that a flat Christmas is the most positive outcome UK retailers can expect” cast depression on us all.

There are measures the high street can take to grab themselves a slice of the Christmas pie of course – for example, discounting at recessionary levels will go some way to help maintain sales (although more than likely at the expense of margins). But the real shining light in this cloud of gloominess is online and multichannel shopping. It is predicted online will grow by 15 percent in December despite many predicting the weather conditions, which so thwarted this sector last year, would lead most shoppers to the high street instead. Confidence in such a claim can be backed up with the continued growth in click-and-collect with total online retail sales expected to exceed £30bn for the first time in 2012.

Technology and data speeds have also finally advanced enough to allow a mobile sales market and, therefore, a fully multichannel environment to grow. Bearing in mind that multichannel shoppers are estimated to spend between 15 and 30 percent more than single channel users, this is a hugely positive step forward for the health of the retail market.

Helen Littlewood, client services director at oneagency.co, comments:

“It’s not true to say that retailers are passive victims of an economic storm, unable to respond or proactively protect themselves. We suggest retailers consider what aspects they can of multichannel marketing now, or at least closely watch those that do over the festive period. I anticipate the Christmas sales period will demonstrate the sector’s positive and lucrative long-term credentials. E-commerce, m-commerce, social networking; these relatively new channels in the marketing armoury can be exploited by many more than present – they are certainly keeping us busy designing, developing and building successful campaigns for clients, such as Norfolk County Council and Team Lotus.”

The future is mobile