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Balancing the Scales: Rethinking Retail Strategy for All Year-Round vs Christmas Spending Focus

Christmas 2023 in the UK retail sector, revealed a nuanced scenario: Despite a record advertising spend of £9.5 billion, a 4.8% increase from 2022, consumer spending only saw a modest rise of 2.6% from November 1 to December 24, not reaching pre-pandemic levels. According to Retail Week, the Boxing Day footfall surge was just +4%, a significant -14.9% lower than in the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, reflecting a major shift in consumer behaviour and the impact of inflation.

The trend towards value was evident. As Retail Week reports, discount grocers like Aldi and Lidl experienced sales increases of +8% and +12% respectively, underscoring a consumer preference for budget-friendly options during the festive season.

Graph showing December footfall level across various sectors

StoreBoost's December 2023 figures show varied footfall across retail sectors: a surge of +8% in Food & Drink, +7% in Apparel, a decline of -3% in Entertainment, a significant +30% in the Children's sector, and +5% in Health & Beauty. These statistics indicate that the footfall increase in December was largely an organic outcome of the festive season, rather than a direct result of the record advertising investments. Further supporting this, MRI Software's review of footfall during the Christmas period 2023 indicates that the final week before Christmas saw an overall footfall rise across UK retail destinations by +11.2%, driven by retail parks and shopping centres.

In conclusion, Christmas 2023's retail dynamics in the UK were more influenced by consumer preferences for value and cautious spending, with the footfall surge reflecting natural seasonal trends rather than the impact of heightened marketing efforts.

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