Retail news round-up: Christmas experiences; pipes to curb pollution; large retailers unprepared for no-deal Brexit

Douglas the Boy Wonder dog bowls

Brits are set to spend £1.6bn on ‘experience gifts’ this Christmas in an effort to cater for a ‘got it all’ generation, new research by Barclaycard has found. The data shows that nearly one in five people plan to choose an experience-based present for their loved ones, shelling out an average of £129 each. The top experience gifts for Christmas are theatre/comedy tickets, followed by spa/beauty treatments and concert tickets.

Britain’s dog owners, meanwhile, spend £166m on Christmas treats and gifts for their pets – an average of £18.42 per dog, according to American Express.

The Times reported that goods bought online will be transported into cities through pipes similar to those used by utility companies in as little as three years under plans to remove polluting HGVS from the road. The paper said that experts backed by online grocer Ocado are working on the development of an initial 52-mile network of pipes stretching from north-west London to Hertfordshire and on to Milton Keynes.

Data from Squire Patton Boggs and Retail Economics reveals that leading British retailers with a combined annual turnover of more than £100bn are unprepared for a no-deal Brexit. Of the 26 surveyed, almost a quarter had done little or no preparation, while more than a half had undertaken some – and more than a tenth felt ‘very unprepared’.

Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, has said that the draft withdrawal agreement between the UK and EU ‘brought with it the promise of hope that the coveted transition period was a step closer to being secured – a transition period that avoids a damaging and dangerous no-deal Brexit that would be catastrophic for the UK’s small businesses’. And Josh Hardie, CBI deputy director-general, commented: ‘It appears we are on the cusp of a much-needed agreement. This shows a deal can be done …’

Retail inflation rose 0.1% in November compared with the same month last year, according to British Retail Consortium/Nielsen data. BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said that while it was good news for consumers that prices had remained almost unchanged, low inflation presented ‘a more difficult picture’ for retailers facing weak demand and uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

GfK’s consumer confidence index decreased by three points in November amid concerns over household finances, the general economy and purchase intentions. GfK’s Joe Staton said that the denouement to more than two years of ‘bewildering Brexit wheeler-dealing looks like it will be enacted precisely when many consumers would prefer to be thinking of a well-earned Christmas break … possibly turning this year’s season of goodwill into the season of uncertainty’.

Springboard data showed that footfall declined on Black Friday compared with Black Friday in 2017, dropping by -5.4%. This occurred despite a rise over the week from the previous Friday of +8.6%. Footfall on high streets fell by -4% and also declined in retail parks (-5.3%) and shopping centres (-8.3%). IMRG said online spending rose by +7.3% on Black Friday, while Barclaycard also reported an increase in transactions of +10%, but said that spending had in fact declined by -12%, which dovetails with a drop in footfall. BDO said that like-for-like sales in physical stores had grown by less than 0.5%.

Adobe Analytics’ tracking of transactions at 80 of the top 100 US retailers revealed that over Thanksgiving and Black Friday online sales rose more than 23% to $6bn.

The £2.9bn takeover bid for shopping malls owner Intu Properties has been abandoned by the consortium led by Peel Group because of what it described as ‘uncertainty around current macroeconomic conditions and the potential near-term volatility across markets’.

Alan Monahan