Christmas is coming ahead of schedule for UK retailers, with almost half (49%) choosing to showcase holiday-themed products earlier than usual. The move aims to assist customers in managing Christmas expenses more effectively.

Shockingly, a quarter (25%) of retailers are now setting up Christmas displays as early as September, while the majority (57%) have them ready by October.

A tiny fraction (1%) has even kickstarted the festive season in June, according to data from the Barclays Business Barometer, which gauges the UK corporate business environment across various industries.

Optimism in the air: retailers brace for ‘Critical Christmas’ rebound

Despite economic challenges, retailers remain resilient, anticipating a rebound in sales during the upcoming crucial Christmas period.

In addition to the early display strategy, the industry projects sales acceleration in Q4, with a predicted average revenue growth of 20% quarter on quarter compared to 2022.

The optimism is fuelled by the expectation that consumers will flock back to brick-and-mortar stores, with 60% of retailers foreseeing increased foot traffic compared to online shopping.

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Santa’s Helpers: temporary workforce on the rise

Over four in five retailers (82%) plan to rely on temporary workers during the festive season, with those hiring looking to expand their workforce by more than a quarter (28%) to meet the expected surge in demand.

Notably, 23% of retailers plan to hire more than in previous Christmases, impacting all demographics, including 43% of large retailers looking to hire individuals over the age of 50. Despite the demand, employee welfare remains a priority, as 51% of large retailers have committed to keeping doors closed on Boxing Day to give employees an extra day off.

Investments in infrastructure: enhancing the shopping experience

As consumers prefer in-person Christmas shopping, more than two-thirds (67%) of retailers have invested in improving customer experiences at their stores.

Additionally, 64% have invested in data analytics and similar technologies to enhance customer loyalty. A majority (56%) have also invested in their own delivery infrastructure to minimise potential supply chain disruptions for consumers.

Karen Johnson, Head of Retail and Wholesale at Barclays Corporate Banking, expressed optimism, saying:

“After a not-so-festive 2022 season, retailers have moved decisively to build resilience. Focusing on Christmas goods earlier, investing in infrastructure, and expanding temporary hiring are all positive indicators that the sector is well-placed for what is a critical Christmas.”

Johnson highlighted that despite recent weak consumer demand, early signs suggest strong sales, providing a potential boost to the UK economy as the year concludes.