It’s that time of year again. The tree is up, the angel is balanced on top of the tree, and the credit card is taking a hammering. It’s Christmas, and for many of us, it’s the most expensive time of year.
The press love to comment each year on the excesses of the festive season, so I might as well join in. Every year we are told that we are spending “more than ever” on that one day of gluttony. True to form, stories have emerged again of this year’s spending habits.
The first survey comes from the unlikely source of the bankers ING, who have discovered that UK shoppers will spend the second most on Christmas of any country in Europe, outdone only by Romanians. They studied the spending patterns of 11,700 people around Europe to produce the report. Their findings showed the average Brit expected to spend £350 each on presents alone, a good 50% more than the next biggest spenders in France and Luxembourg. When looking at spend as a proportion of income, the Romanians triumphed in the spending stakes, spending on average a third of their monthly income. The UK was third with 17%. The rise of American-type Black Friday extravaganzas has only helped increased the mad scramble for products.
A natural consequence of increased spending is of course increased debt. It can be of little surprise that last year Britons and Romanians found themselves more in debt than anywhere else in Europe (14% and 20% respectively versus a European average of 9%).
We must be wary with such studies however. Do you know how much money you will spend this Christmas? I’ll be honest, I have no idea. The ING study does acknowledge this, stating that 41% of European consumers do not know what their total spend will be over the holiday season, whilst 30% said they don’t worry about what they spend at Christmas, unlike other times of the year. At least a significant portion (just short of 50%) of those asked in the UK said they had put money aside to plan for this expensive time of the year, with youngsters tending to be the biggest savers. Debt may rise at this time of year, but it’s all good news for retailers, as estimates suggest £74 billion of purchases in the six weeks leading up to Christmas.
According to a separate survey by Go Compare, 52% will use a mixture of vouchers, discount codes or loyalty points as the main way to cut down on their Christmas spend. It’s always good to see buyers being savvy and shopping around for deals. Their survey looked at the top ways that people cut back on expenditure, and found these to be setting a strict budget, buying sales products, avoiding rip-off Christmas experiences, and planning in advance, thus avoiding the last-minute desperation buys that many of us will have experienced.
And so to YouGov research, which it’s good to know found spending to be down on last year – well level if truth be told, with the average British household spending £821 – down a whole pound on last year’s figures. On presents however, spending was found to be up, their average household spend coming out at an average of £604, up 0.8% on last year. As for the all-important food and drinks bill, the average spend per house was £174, with £43 splashed out on the extra decorations, cards and the like. Their total festive spend estimate for the nation is found to be £22.5 billion, a small increase on last year.
At this stage of an economic recovery, many experts predicted a boom in spending, so flat figures actually suggest sluggish consumer confidence – that’s not good for the economy, but from other perspectives it is good to see that the nation is not getting carried away, spending-wise, during the holiday period.
Thanks to the proliferation of online shopping, I don’t have to step into a crowded shop anymore, preferring to snaffle bargains on the internet instead. And this brings us nicely onto the next study, by the Centre of Retail (commissioned by vouchercodes.co.uk), that estimates that UK shoppers will spend £17.4 billion online this Christmas. If these estimates are correct, then this is the main area of growth in spending this Christmas, no doubt fuelled by the extreme popularity of the online section of the aforementioned Black Friday Deals. The figures show a growth of 19.5% on the £14.5 billion spent in 2013. This would account for 23.4% of all sales in the six-week period leading up to December 25th. Much of this online spending will also be done on mobile devices rather than traditional computers/laptops -29.8% is what the survey estimates, which is triple the amount from last year. Once more, this is a percentage figure greater than other countries in Europe.
Finally, who is spending most across the country this Christmas? The final survey, by price-tracking website suppose.com, suggests the biggest spenders are the residents of Scarborough, on the coast of North Yorkshire, with over half of those asked splashing out between £800 and £1000 on gifts. Second was Dundee, with four out of ten expected to spend a similar amount. The lowest amount? Well that award went to Halifax, with over half having just £200 as their budget.
But the best news of all should be left to last. It has emerged that there has been a 5% fall in the average price of a turkey.