Mintel expects retail sales in November and December to hit £81.7 billion, declining just 0.4% compared with the same period in 2019.
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Shoppers’ Christmas spending could hold up in 2020 despite the hit to household incomes this year, according to a forecast.
While the festive season will be challenging for shops and consumers, Mintel expects in-store and online retail sales across November and December combined to hit £81.7 billion.
This would be a fall of just 0.4% compared with last November and December – when sales reached £82 billion.
More than three-quarters (77%) of grocery shoppers said it is important to have a good Christmas after the events of 2020, the market research agency found.
Mintel said online sales, which have surged during the coronavirus pandemic, are expected to make up a record chunk of sales over the Christmas period.
It found half (51%) of consumers say they plan to buy more Christmas gifts online this year, rising among those aged 16 to 34 (58%) and falling a little among those over 55 (44%).
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers plan to try to limit the time they spend in crowded areas before seeing their family at Christmas.
Overall, Mintel estimates that internet “pure players” – those who only sell online – will account for £15.7 billion worth of sales in November and December.
Nick Carroll, associate director of retail research at Mintel, said: “Consumers have been less willing to spend since the pandemic hit and these fears will naturally be at play in the background of this festive period.
“However, the festive period is, for many consumers, a time to forget their worries and celebrate with loved ones, and few years have limited consumers’ ability to do both like 2020.”
He added that customers may be wanting to make this Christmas as special as possible “and purse strings are likely to be released more than they have been so far in 2020”.
Mr Carroll said: “Value will remain crucial but those that have been able to save during the pandemic may look to release some pent-up demand, while those who have been impacted financially will do what they can to ensure they can still make this festive period special.”