Is Christmas a changed concept?

Tamsin Ford’s antiques shop stocks a huge range of Christmas-themed merchandise, including mistletoe and Christmas trees. But she’s not sure whether shoppers should start preparing their gift-buying two months in advance. According to Professor Beverley Sheil, ‘The UK’s retail industry is experiencing a slower start to the busy festive period compared to recent years because traditional shopping patterns aren’t being followed as they used to.’

Stephenie Dale, the head of the Centre for Retail Research, says retailers are struggling to find a balance between traditional Christmas shopping and better value in the run-up to December. “This is putting strain on retailers as consumer spending increasingly moves online,” she says. David Frost, chairman of marketing organisation DR, says that “consumers are spending less than ever before, but retailers are spending nothing like as much.”

Supermarkets are acutely aware of shoppers’ rising reluctance to spend big, with 20,000 of them converting the last day of Black Friday into a traditional “Black Thursday” event. Tesco has even launched a mobile app to allow customers to pinpoint items on their Christmas shopping list and place them in nearby Tesco stores.

Meanwhile, yesterday Tesco ditched its signature toy aisle in favour of a three-tier gourmet food retailer. And Marks & Spencer is holding its first Christmas pop-up store.

Is this a sign that Christmas has taken on a new role within the modern consumer psyche? Is it, instead, becoming an overstuffed festivity? Or is it just shopping like it was never meant to be done? Let us know what you think.

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