Retail news round-up: Top Christmas spending by region; The Entertainer buys Poly

Wales tops the UK’s festive spending league table, with the average person shelling out £377 for presents, according to a survey from financial services firm Hargreaves Lansdown. Scotland follows in second place (£351), with the North-East third (£345). Bottom of the table is the East Midlands (£264). Women spend an average of £340 on Christmas gifts, compared to £278 for men.

However, new Christmas trading analysis from PwC suggests that shoppers in Scotland will have the highest average spend (£454) of all the regions, with consumers across Britain preparing to spend an average of £420 on Christmas presents. Those in the 35-44 year age bracket are going to fork out the most, the research suggests.

Clothing, personal technology, experience days/event tickets are the top three most wanted Christmas gifts, a survey by kitchenware etailer reveals. Kitchenware finished fourth.

Sending Christmas cards is still the nation’s favourite way of spreading festive cheer, says Royal Mail. Its new research shows that almost eight in 10 UK adults (77%) who celebrate Christmas say that sending cards is their favourite way of conveying season’s greetings to family and friends – compared to saying it in person (62%), by text (34%) or by social media message (38%). Christmas cards are still popular among the younger generation, with just over half of 18-24 year olds (56%) expressing a preference for cards as a way of spreading festive cheer compared to any other channel, including text (38%) and WhatsApp messages (24%).

Specialist independent toy retailer, The Entertainer, has aquired Spanish toy retailer, Poly as it also reveals a 38% rise in profits. All 57 Poly stores – located in high streets around Spain – will be retained, alongside 350  jobs. The Entertainer owner, Gary Grants, said: “Our immediate focus is to work with our suppliers to ensure that all 57 stores are stocked for the remainder of the festive trading period. This will include the introduction of the full range of products from our sister company Addo, which will offer Spanish consumers excellent quality at affordable prices.” The Entertainer now has a store estate of some 300 in the UK and overseas.

12 new retailers have joined The Icon Outlet a few months after it officially opened at the O2 in  London. The brands include Asics, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Radley, Moss, Sunglass Hut, Miss Sixty, Karen Millen, Scotch and Soda, Tommy Hilfiger, Remus Uomo, Lead + Ball, and FatFace.

Laura Ashley will reduce its UK store estate as it seeks greater expansion into Asia. Owner, Malayan United Industries (MUI) already closed 40 Laura Ashley stores in 2015 and will further reduce its UKestate from 160 sites to 120.

A ring from British start-up McLear allows shoppers to make payments by placing their hand over a terminal wherever they see the contactless symbol anywhere in the world. Users can connect the McLear Ring to their card or bank account and keep track of their day-to-day spending with the accompanying app.

Amazon’s first checkout-free store in Britain is reportedly being planned, with sites near London’s Oxford Street favoured for its hi-tech ‘Amazon Go’ shop.

Small Business Saturday (December 1) was the most successful to date with an estimated £812m spent with small businesses across the UK – a rise of 8% from 2017.

Springboard is forecasting that footfall will decline by -4.2% in December, a greater drop than the -3.5% fall in December last year. It anticipates that high streets and shopping centres will bear the brunt of the decline in customer activity in bricks and mortar destinations, with drops in footfall of -4.6% and -4.8% respectively. Footfall in retail parks is forecast to decline by -2.6%, compared to -0.7% in December 2016 and 0.6% in December 2017.

Alan Monahan