Ah, Christmas. That jolly time of year where Christmas carols are in the air and stampedes of people head to the mall, forcing shoppers to spend 30 minutes circling the car park. We explore whether the typically stressful experience is a necessary evil or if could be improved.
Those in retail and those who are doing the shopping tend to be united on the subject of Christmas shopping.
It’s a hectic yet culturally necessary time of year that isn’t much fun for anyone involved.
Madison Medeiros on Guff.com sums it up as “Holiday shopping: Tidings of anger and fear.”
“The truth is, I love the holiday season — the lights, the music (for the most part), the cosy clothing, fireplaces, family, and giving gifts to loved ones. But something dark emerges during holiday shopping season that I simply cannot overlook: People become monsters,” she says.
“Something about ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ taps into our primal instincts, forcing us to go into full-on survival mode.”
According to a survey by shopping game app GameIt, one third of Americans would rather have a root canal than be subjected to Christmas shopping.
In a poll on Facebook asking Kiwis what they hated the most about Christmas, some of the responses included:
– “I hate how packed the malls are, how there is no parking and how loud everything is when I just want to relax and have a coffee.”
– “Last minute packed malls.”
– “Too many people.”
– “The carols, I’m a big lover of Christmas but when you’ve heard the same 10 songs for three months you start singing the next song before it even comes on and it drives you nutty. Mix it up guys!”
Though there’s grumbling about the shopping experience around Christmas, it certainly doesn’t curb spending.
Kiwis spent $2.3 billion in December last year through Paymark, up 4.3 percent compared to the previous year.
Clearly, stress doesn’t deter shoppers. But is there anything that can be done to make the experience a bit more pleasant?
Most who responded on Facebook understood the plight of those in retail and recognised that shops being busy over Christmas was unavoidable.
There were a few suggestions for changes retailers could make, including:
– “I think retailers should offer little treats like mince pies/Christmas cake/ strawberries etc for shoppers.”
– “Maybe free delivery from the standard shops? More late nights? Ear plugs? Free ice blocks? Clowns to distract angry loud children?”
– “Hold a couple of late nights leading up to Christmas so people who work don’t miss out and make sure you’ve got enough stock. No one likes arriving to shop and everything has gone. Make sure you have someone on the floor tidying up displays and offering to help because it hurts my head and eyes to look at messy displays.”
Vend retail expert Francesca Nicasio says a lot of the “not-so-sexy” details can make or break a retailer’s performance during the biggest shopping event of the year.
She says the best way to determine whether to extend store opening hours over Christmas is to observe sales and foot traffic trends in the coming weeks.
“Are customers waiting outside before your usual opening time?” she says.
“Have you noticed people coming in or leaving your shop later than usual? You should also pay attention to your sales data and figure out if the revenue that you’ll make during your extended business hours would outweigh the costs of staying open. If you think the cost is worth it, then it might make sense to temporarily extend your store hours.”
To avoid the crowds at malls, more people may turn to shopping online this year and get the gifts delivered directly to their door.
With ordering deadlines and shipping cutoffs with online sites, Nicasio says communicate this information to customers early and drill it into them so they can plan purchases accordingly.
“Send out reminders as the deadlines approach, and include a banner on your site listing the important dates. If you can, consider creating a shipping table that lets people easily figure out when they need to place their orders.”
She also says retailers should think outside their usual clientele, as there’ll be different shoppers browsing for their loved ones around Christmas time.
“How will you educate and inform them about your merchandise? How can you ensure that your advertising and marketing efforts are targeted towards them?” she says.
Another retail expert, Hotfoot CEO Juanita Neville-te Rito, says so far, the Kiwi retailers she’s seen are offering a bit of a “bah humbug” Christmas experience.
Though a luxury US retailer, she says Neiman Marcus is a company to take inspiration from for bringing the “wow” factor to Christmas through its OTT Christmas book, which includes a $150,000 motorcycle trip with actor Keanu Reeves.
Doing something different or exciting over the Christmas period will be sure to engage shoppers, she says.
Motorcycle trip with Richie McCaw, anyone?