Consumer Christmas Planning


Christmas is one of the most anticipated events of the year for retailers and consumers alike. For retailers, Christmas provides a critical trading period; figures from 2016 show that the quantity bought in retail sales grew in December 2016 by 4.3% compared with the same month in 2015 (ONS, 2016). When faced with Christmas shopping it seems that for British consumers preparation is key, spending approximately 67 hours ensuring that they have everything they need, from shopping for food and presents to decorating (Canvas8, 2016), and our research shows that planning for the festive season begins months in advance.

Christmas 2017 Consumer Insights

Audience Behaviours


Of the 610 respondents who took part in the Dentsu Aegis Network research, 33% had already begun planning for Christmas by the end of September, of these:

  • 40% of under 35s had begun Christmas planning by the end of September, followed by 35% of respondents aged 35 to 54, and 25% of those aged 55+
  • Of the respondents who had begun Christmas planning by the end of September 32% have children.


Of the 33% (147) respondents who had begun their Christmas planning:

  • 62% of respondents were already planning their small gift shopping lists, and 42% planning large gift purchases
  • By the end of September planning gift lists was a priority for the group, with 37% of respondents making a gift list for other people and 19% noting the gifts they’d like to receive
  • Many respondents were also planning their Christmas social activities by the end of September, with 19% reporting to be planning Christmas social events, 16% buying food and drink and 9% booking holidays and travel.

The 67% of the group who hadn’t yet started planning:

  • Just 3% of respondents had begun by early October and 6% by the end of the same month
  • 15% of respondents begin their Christmas planning in early November, followed by 14% who start planning in late November and 13% in early December
  • 7% of the group leave it until a week or two before Christmas to start planning
  • 8% of the group don’t plan or celebrate Christmas.


Gift Buying

Figures show that Christmas spend was up in 2016 from 2015, with the average spend on Christmas gifts in 2016 at £367 (Mintel, 2017). Interestingly, our research group of 599 respondents shows that many consumers expect to be spending the same amount or more this festive period on gifts alone:

  • Respondents who have children are most likely to spend £500+ on Christmas gifts this year, with 15% stating they expected their gift buying to fall between £500 - £749, 5% expecting to spend between £750 - £999 and 7% expect their purchases to cost in excess of £1000+
  • Of those aged 18-34, 36% expect to spend less than £100 on Christmas gifts, the largest group with this projected spend. At the other end of the scale, 5% of this age group expect to spend upwards of £1000 on gifts and 26% are planning to spend between £100 and £249
  • The majority of respondents aged 35-54 (29%) expected to spend between £250-£499 on gifts, aligned with the national average spend in previous years
  • The oldest age group of respondents, those aged 55+, recorded the largest planned spend of gifts between £100-£249 at 33% and the second largest on gifts aged £250-£499 at 31%.

Having set out their planned spend, respondents were then asked to share who they buy Christmas gifts for, of the 573 respondents:

  • 17% of respondents were planning on purchasing a gift for themselves, with those aged 18-34 most likely to do so, and those aged 55+ or with children the least likely to do so
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, those with children were most likely to be planning on buying gifts for children at 98%, in contrast those aged 18-34 were the least likely to, with 41% of the respondents planning to. Those aged 35-54 and 55+ were likely to be planning to buy gifts for children, at 65% and 67% respectively
  • Either this year or last year, those aged 18-34 were most likely to have bought their pet a Christmas gift, at 41% of respondents. This fits with wider research suggesting that Gen Y are marrying and having families later, and many have pets as ‘starter children’ (Canvas8, 20171).

When shopping, there’s a balance of advantages and disadvantages consumers consider when choosing to visit stores or shop online. Of our 572 research respondents 74% do at least half of their Christmas shopping online, complimenting research from Mintel (2017) which saw increased spend online.

  • Mintel report that 35% choose online shopping to avoid crowds, 35% because they were able to shop at their leisure and 35% look for cheaper online prices
  • Our own research group of 505 selected free delivery as a key influencer when choosing to shop online, with 62% of respondents citing this option, followed by 60% who looked for the lowest price (excluding multi-buy) and 37% were swayed by guaranteed delivery.
  • Delivery was also a key factor in Canvas8’s Christmas research, with 60% of consumers stating they would want same day delivery, but just 15% of retailers offering the service (Canvas8, 20172)
  • Expectations of online service goes beyond delivery options, with 57% of shoppers abandoning a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. When researching and selecting gifts, research shows that shoppers utilise their online networks during the purchasing process, as 88% of UK shoppers seek approval online from peers (Canvas8, 20172).

Of the 520 respondents who chose to shop in store, the following advantages were selected:

  • 59% to do for the lowest price (excluding multi-buy)
  • 26% of respondents visit stores for the availability of multi-buy discounts
  • Followed by 25% who are after the availability of newly released products
  • 20% of our respondents shopped in store hoping for inspiration, compared to 34% according to Mintel research (2017)
  • Further research from Mintel shows that 53% of shoppers like to see or touch the products and 32% like to look for offers when Christmas shopping (Mintel, 2017).

We asked our research group to tell us what frustrates them about Christmas shopping, of the 569 respondents:

  • 38% selected out of stock items, 33% delivery cost and 32% busy stores
  • 33% of respondents aged 18-34 were most frustrated by busy stores, 30% were frustrated by increased prices than at other times of the year and 29% by out of stock items
  • Comparatively out of stock items frustrated 38% of respondents aged 35-54 and 33% of the respondents who had children.

This research indicates a positive outlook for retailers this festive period. Whilst we expect that many consumers will be considering the impact Brexit will have on their finances, our figures show that for now, consumers are looking forward to the festive period and potentially are spending with a ‘let’s enjoy it whilst we can’ attitude; so, it looks like Santa’s going to have a busy Christmas.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you prepare your brand for the festive period, get in touch today.


Note: Respondents with children are unweighted by age.


ONS, 2016
Canvas8, 2016
Canvas8, 20171
Canvas8, 20172
Mintel, 2017


Christmas 2017 Consumer Insights
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