Food and drink set to be spared from cautious Christmas spending?

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th September 2008

The deterioration in economic conditions is set to lead to more cautious spending by UK consumers at Christmas but food and drink spend is unlikely to be affected, according to GfK NOP’s new Christmas Shopping survey.

Helen Roberts, Retail Director at GfK NOP, believes the findings are intriguing and wonders whether the festive spirit will inevitably overwhelm fiscal conservatism. “We are seeing some interesting figures coming in on these first waves of our ongoing tracker survey, with a significant number of people already planning to spend less on things like decorations and presents for friends and colleagues and even on certain family members,” she stated. “So far, there is a fairly even balance in the number of people intending to spend less or more on food and drink – although we should ask ourselves whether this means they’re actually intending to purchase fewer items, but believe it will cost them the same amount as last Christmas, due to the price increases we are seeing this year.”

“It’s going to be fascinating for retailers to keep watch on how these indicative first findings develop as we get closer December; will people get more and more cautious, or will the festive spirit give them a sense of ‘why not?’.”

The survey indicates that 40 per cent of consumers plan to finance Christmas through our credit cards, and 17 per cent will be dipping into their savings to pay for the festive season spend. Forty per cent have also admitted that they are more worried this year than they were last year about how they will pay for Christmas.

Ms Roberts notes that fears of a recession have already been driving consumer purchase decisions. “The extended media focus on the UK economy and fears of what the recession will bring are high in people’s minds,” she said. “We’re already seeing signs of belt-tightening, with our Consumer Behaviour Monitor for July and August showing well over a third of UK consumers switching to supermarket own brands rather than branded goods, cutting back on the amount of holiday travel we plan to do, and going out to pubs and restaurants less.”