So, Christmas Eve wasn’t the saviour that the retailers expected. In conversations with retailers, it seems that even Christmas Eve sales were down. As one said to me, “This is the quietest Christmas Eve that I can remember.”
That said, it seems that grocery sales were up leading up to Christmas. Gluttony takes another form?
Does this signal the beginning of a trend?
It may, but my suspicion is that what we are seeing is a levelling out of consumption and growth. It doesn’t mean that people won’t be buying stuff, but it may mean that finally the majority of the population (putting aside those at the two ends of the normal distribution) feel that (for the moment) they have enough “stuff”.
You can only have so many flat-screen televisions in your living room before you start to notice that you have lots of flat-screen televisions. While computers become obsolete every three years or so (for most consumers), you can’t expect the entire population to simply keep replacing them every couple of months.
What I am suggesting is that, at least for the time being, we are in a state of “consumption satiation”. It’s likely that this is a breather, rather than a long-term shift toward a “new thrift”, which has been suggested by some commentators.
I also don’t think the Boxing Day sales will show any upward trend, and they are unlikely to beat previous years.
Of course, there will still be plenty of people out there looking for bargains, but the long-term trend is that most consumers are purchasing throughout the year, rather than waiting for sales. It’s probably an indication of the fact that we now have access to more information about pricing, and therefore feel comfortable negotiating any time of the year. It could also be that the retailers are constantly having sales, so the blockbusters don’t have the impact that they had in the past.
Obviously, this isn’t the case for all consumers – horse for courses, as they say (or segmentation, as I would say) – but this change in consumer behaviour is not a “blip”, and things will return to the “good old days” when the retailer had the upper hand, if we just ride it out.
The era calls for creative thinking from retailers.
I have some ideas, but for the moment I’m keeping them to myself.