Black Friday and Cyber Monday set to boost Christmas sales
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are forecast to make it a very merry Christmas for Britain's retail sector as shoppers go on a seasonal spending spree.
But up to one in four Christmas shoppers (23 per cent) plan to put off making big buys until they've seen the Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions this year - November 25 and 28 respectively.
One in five shoppers (20 per cent) bought gifts online and one in nine (11 per cent) in-store on Black Friday or Cyber Monday in 2015.
And, as people turn their minds towards filling this year's stockings, consumer analysts Mintel estimates that total UK retail sales will grow 2.5 per cent in December 2016 to reach Â£42.2 billion.
Shying away from the Christmas high street rush, new research from Mintel reveals that as many as one in five people (20 per cent) plan to shop online more this festive season, rising to 24 per cent of men and 28 per cent of 16-24 year olds.
The top three reasons why people shopped online for gifts last year were to get cheaper prices (55 per cent), to avoid the crowds (49 per cent) and to shop when it suited them (49 per cent).
Richard Perks, director of Retail Research at Mintel, said: "The economic background for consumers continues to be favourable.
"Real incomes are rising and unemployment is falling.
"There are some worrying signs though. Consumer credit has risen back to record levels and the housing market has weakened a little but, overall, the prospects for Christmas remain good.
"When it comes to Christmas shopping, it is increasingly artificial to make a distinction between online and in-store as the two increasingly are working together to suit shoppers' needs.
"We are seeing pure players recognise the advantages to having a physical offering, signified by Amazon and Zalando's interest in moving to the high street.
"At the same time, a number of high street retailers now price match against online retailers, trying to fight back against the continued belief among shoppers that it's cheaper to buy online."
Overall, 93 per cent of Brits bought gifts for Christmas 2015, 86 per cent bought gifts in-store and 76 per cent purchased online.
Around one in 12 (eight per cent) bought all of their Christmas gifts online, compared to 18 per cent who bought all of their Christmas gifts in-store.
And it seems savvy shoppers are keen to grab a bargain, with 58 per cent agreeing that promotions available mean that they don't need to pay full price, rising to 63 per cent among women, compared to 53 per cent of men.
Mintel estimates that last year Black Friday and Cyber Monday boosted November retail sales by 1.5 per cent to reach Â£440 million.
And, of those who forked out on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, 55 per cent bought things that they would normally have waited to buy in the January sales while 26 per cent held off spending ahead of the promotions.
Mr Perks said: "December 2016's results will very much depend on what retailers do about Black Friday, but if they cut back on such promotions then there will be a knock-on benefit to December, as sales roll over into this month.
"In 2015, December's results were weak, partly because of Black Friday and partly because of the unseasonal weather, which seems to have been a constant story over the last year. So the comparisons this Christmas are easier."
The Mintel research also shows that while Britain's savvy shoppers are keen to grab a bargain, they are also happy to offer a helping hand through festive gift buying.
More than a quarter (26 per cent) agree that given the choice they would choose Fairtrade gifts, rising to a third (34 per cent) of 16 to 34-year-olds.
Fifteen per cent look for gifts that include a charity donation in the price, rising to 25 per cent of those aged 16 to 34, while 33 per cent of gift buyers say they buy British made gifts wherever possible.