Myth #9: Post recession, we buy fewer gifts for fewer people

Gifting at Christmas. Nine out of ten of us have done it and can probably agree that gift giving is not such an easy task when looking at how much planning is involved: writing wish lists, seeking inspiration, choosing the right retailers, finding the right price, budget setting, etc.

We were approached with the hypothesis that Brits would be spending less on gifts for Christmas 2014 given the economic climate, and/or would buy gifts for fewer people as a result. Our Future of Britain studies suggests this to be a myth. Here’s why:

2.4 no more

In our Future of Families research we saw evidence of the changing family dynamic. Family now extends way beyond mum, dad and 2.4 kids, to the wider network of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, stepbrothers and sisters, and everyone else in-between. Nowadays, friends and, in some cases, neighbours (and of course pets) are all considered part of the family. Family isn’t defined by blood ties, it’s defined by relationships. Our family network has widened, providing greater opportunities for a variety of gifts for more ‘family’ members.

Brits enjoy giving gifts

Seeing family members and friends happy has become a cornerstone of Christmas enjoyment. And we found that giving gifts is more important than receiving gifts to most Brits.

“The best moment during Christmas is when my family all wake early to go downstairs and take turns opening presents. Seeing other peoples’ expressions for the presents I got them makes me happy.” Tom, 46

The overall gift purchase penetration has increased year-on-year from 93.3% in 2013 to 95.1% 2014 (Source: Conlumino, Christmas 2014, Version 1.0, January 2015). Spending on gifts was by far the biggest expenditure at Christmas compared to groceries, representing 59.2% of Christmas spending overall (Source: Centre for Retail Research). Not that surprising, given the promotional nature of Christmas 2014.

Our study found that the majority of us (55%) spend over £300 on Christmas gifts. Another study by ING discloses that Christmas spending equates to 17% of our monthly income and that Brits spend more on Christmas gifts than any other country in Europe and on average shop in 4.2 different categories (Source: This is Money).

Future of Christmas


Financial dichotomy

In previous Future of Britain studies  we identified how the recession has led us to adopt new and long-term monetary strategies which have ingrained themselves in British households. For example, during Christmas 2014 we saw one third of Britons carefully budget for their Christmas shopping.

Ironically, we found that those who felt worse off than a year ago were far more careful in their Christmas spending, whilst those who felt better off were the group most likely to get into debt to buy gifts.

Last Christmas we experienced the highest consumer confidence since pre-recession, so we are looking forward to discovering what the financial Christmas mind-set will look like in 2015.

So what?

Extended family networks, the joy of giving, increased consumer confidence and the nature of Christmas being a staple of excess provide endless opportunities for brands and retailers to create excitement and encourage the gift chase.

The opportunities start with stimulating shopping occasions when the love for Christmas reaches its peak in mid-November and calls for a refreshing approach to be present during the commercial festive season.

Or, better still, offering a smart product mix for all ‘family’ members across different channels that encourages impulse shopping, family experiences, togetherness and above all, value.


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