Christmas trade


26th November, 2021

Pandemic creates uncertainty for second year of holiday trade

New MYOB consumer survey results indicate shopping centre traffic may be down as much as ten percent on last year, while spending could be on the rise.

While the government prepares to unveil details of the upcoming traffic light system and the country moves into a new phase of COVID-19 response, retailers are left wondering what the holiday shopping season will bring.

Over time, Christmas shopping seems to be occurring earlier and earlier, and new research from MYOB suggests it’s likely to happen again this year, as a direct result of pandemic-related uncertainty.

The latest MYOB Consumer Snapshot surveyed over 1,000 New Zealand consumers, finding nearly 80 percent had concerns for the way COVID-19 would influence their Christmas and New Years plans at the close of 2021.

The survey reveals more than a quarter (29 percent) of consumers planned to start their Christmas shopping earlier than last year, while just over half (51 percent) said they’d start spending at the same time as usual.

What’s driving the trend towards early shopping this year?

Rather than a general concern around lockdowns or catching COVID-19 in the crowds, it seems the biggest factor triggering the early spending behaviour is concerns around the availability of stock.

With border restrictions as well as labour and supply chain wobbles occurring throughout the pandemic, there’s little wonder supply concerns take top spot in the five reasons respondents gave for planning to shop early.

Top five reasons for shopping early this year:

  1. Supply concerns
  2. Avoid the crowds
  3. Uncertainty of restrictions and potential future lockdowns
  4. Make the most of sales
  5. Purchases were already planned

“Supply concerns are top of mind for both consumers and retailers, so it’s not surprising that some consumers are planning to shop early to make sure they don’t miss out on their desired Christmas gifts,” said Jo Tozer, head of customer services at MYOB.

Fifteen percent of early shoppers also said they’d planned their gift shopping as a way to support their local economy.

Foot traffic drop expected for shopping centres

Despite shopping centres and malls maintaining the position of most preferred among Kiwi consumers, foot traffic is expected to drop.

This year, 29 percent of survey respondents indicated they would purchase most of their gifts from a shopping centre or mall, compared to 39 percent in 2020.

Motivation to shop local remains strong

The good news for retailers is that the desire to support local business is highlighted throughout the survey data with 28 percent of consumers intending to purchase the majority of gifts from a New Zealand-based business.

“This turbulent trading year has hit the revenue of many SMEs, so supporting local where possible will help ensure that they have the boost – and cashflow – to continue on,” said Tozer.

A further 13 percent of consumers said they planned to purchase most gifts from a local business online, while one in five (19 percent) were undecided.

Budgeted Christmas spending has risen in 2021

Uncertain over supply chain issues and delivery delays, consumers are expecting to pay a little more in 2021 than last year, which could be a true silver lining for retailers and hospitality businesses alike.

According to the survey, the average amount people are planning to spend on gifts, per person, has risen $3 to $93. As for the festivities, spending on food and beverage is budgeted to rise $28 on average to $447 and dining out has jumped $30, to $281.

With nearly half (46 percent) of consumers indicating they’d spend a little more on local businesses when given the opportunity this Christmas, there’s still high hopes for a successful holiday trade period and increasing travel freedoms will only help further.

“December 15 will be the first time most Aucklanders can leave the region in about four months, and we should expect to see a surge of locals moving their Christmas and New Year celebrations to other parts of the country,” explained Tozer.

“While there is understandably some nervousness about the spread of COVID-19 in other communities, confirmation about travel freedoms will have offered good news for businesses in the regions – particularly those in retail, tourism and hospitality.”