January sales... in December?

 
The advance of the internet has seen a vast change in shopping habits; queuing at shop doors on January 1st to be in the first in line for the best TV deals is now (almost) a thing of the past. Instead, many of us join a virtual queue online to nab ourselves a bargain, and often we don't even need to wait until New Year's Day.
 
However, this change has never been as apparent as it is in 2015.
 
Sales are getting earlier and earlier, with many retailers slashing their prices even before Christmas Day in a bid to pull in shoppers. Surprisingly mild pre-Christmas weather has also been blamed for poor turnover for 2015 - as retailers saw lower than usual sales in the build up to the festive season and even on Black Friday.
 
This year the unseasonably warm weather has caused chaos with clothing retailers in particular; sales of coats, scarves, gloves and other wintry wear are down considerably, as people don't feel the need to buy for them themselves or as Christmas gifts. It's certainly harder to feel festive when the weather isn't quite so wintry. 
 
Retailers have been desperate to shift Christmas and seasonal stock - feeling forced to cut prices before Christmas - something previously unthought-of at this prime retail time.
 
Richard Hyman is a veteran retail industry expert and comments on this change in shopping habits: "The discounting this year is unprecedented. I've never seen anything like this and I've been working in the industry for 35 years."
 

The impact of Black Friday

Looking back over the past few years, it seems to be a growing trend that the sales get earlier and earlier each year. The rise of Black Friday in the UK, along with other events such as Cyber Monday, means that the January or even Boxing Day sales may be endangered. 
 
Jason Gordon, is consumer business partner at Deloitte. He says: "Compared to 2014, there is already a noticeable increase in both the volume and value of discounts in the run-up to Christmas this year.
 
"Whilst this is good news for consumers looking to grab a bargain, it is a clear sign that retailers are being faced with what is now an annual uphill battle."
 
In fact, one of the busiest online shopping days of the year is now Christmas Day itself. No longer must frenzied bargain hunters wait until the shops open on Boxing Day, but can instead use their brand new smartphones, laptop or tablets to spend their Christmas money just hours after being given it.
 
Online shopping means that customers can browse for bargains in the comfort of their living room, whilst digesting Christmas pud and waiting for the Eastenders special to start. Retail giant Amazon predicts that this year will be the busiest Christmas day in its history, with 8.25pm being the peak time for sales.
 

What does 2016 hold?

It's clear that the issues with supply over demand need to be addressed. Has a precedent been set and will the January sale become a thing of legend? Hyman says: "Pre-Christmas sales have become the new normal. The problem is the new normal of having your margins cut and brand integrity damaged is neither healthy nor sustainable.
 
"Next year we will see the beginnings of a serious shake out. It will take several years for an effective reset of supply and demand to get to a more viable status quo."
 
While retail has some bumps ahead - what we can rely on is that the British weather will continue to be wet and windy for the next few weeks, with temperatures unlikely to drop below 6 or 7 degrees - meaning there is really no chance of a white Christmas this year. 
 

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