Thoughts

Preparing for smaller Christmas celebrations

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Despite 2020 being set to go down as one of the worst years ever for just about everybody on the planet, it seems to have passed by surprisingly quickly. Whether it’s that half of us are working from home or that the lockdown days have all blended into one, time is zipping by at quite a rate and (a hopefully much brighter) 2021 is on the horizon – and Christmas is just around the corner.

By this time of year normally you would expect to have already been inundated with festive vibes at every turn, but seeing as we’re not really leaving the house much, Christmas 2020 is creeping up in a rather quiet manner, and the celebrations themselves are set to be similarly subdued, too.

There’s no doubt that we’re all currently preparing for a much smaller Christmas this year, but what exactly does that mean?

Why is there so much uncertainty around Christmas?

Collins dictionary have just ordained “lockdown” as their prestigious word of the year, thanks to its rather bleak encapsulation of the world’s shared experience across the past 9 months. However, one could argue terms such as “unprecedented” and “uncertainty” belong on the shortlist as well.

Indeed, all we’ve heard this year are terms such as “living in unprecedented times” and “what the uncertainty around the pandemic means for insert topic”. Unfortunately, despite months of it, such uncertainty is set to continue into Christmas and beyond.

Right now, we’re all sat in the midst of a tier 4, nationwide lockdown, which is due to end in the first few days of December. However, with the government having seemingly consistently mishandled the population control element of the pandemic so far, no one can say what awaits beyond that date.

Could it be a slackening of restrictions or a double down on current ones? Right now, the situation is so fluid that it’s impossible to say. Boris Johnson has consistently said the government will be led by a scientific understanding that is constantly progressing. The state has also installed a regional lockdown tier structure that features different restriction levels, but regional data is also regularly changing.

The approach from the very top is very much day-to-day right now, thus the state of the festive period is as well.

What might celebrations look like this year?

With the above in mind and the fact that Christmas is just over a month away, one thing that can be said with some confidence is that celebrations will look much different to normal, regardless of how regulations change in the next 30-40 days.

With deaths and hospital admissions from the virus still sitting at a much higher than desirable rate, the idea of a “normal”, shared family Christmas featuring different households is almost certainly out of the question. Because of that, Christmas 2020 is set to look remarkably insular, but separated families and friends will no doubt look to the early lockdown favourite of zoom video meet ups to try and stay connected through the period.

It’ll be a quieter Christmas for sure, but it’s likely most will use technology to help make what is typically a family get together time as normal as possible.

How has this affected shopping trends?

There are few industries that have been more devastated by the pandemic than in-store retail, and the impact of the tier 4 lockdown, as well as the restrictions that have gone before tier 4, have completely ravaged the finances of brick and mortar stores around the UK, from small independents to major chains.

As a comparison to this time last year, footfall on UK high streets is predicted to be down by up to 87.3%, with overall retail footfall down by 62%. You can’t shop at stores that aren’t open, which is why the world of e-commerce will be more dominant than ever this winter.

E-commerce activity has unsurprisingly trended upwards throughout the pandemic and lockdown, and that is set to continue to push higher during the Christmas shopping period. That period has been underway for some time too, with shoppers having been warned to shop early or risk missing out this year due to a larger than usual polarisation in supply and demand – something that can be seen with the recent launch of the new, much desired Xbox Series X games console.

Despite a smaller Christmas ahead, there’s also likely to be an increase in spending, with the average Brit budgeting £346 for presents this year as opposed to £312 in 2019. Of course, many punters may take the opportunity of limited celebrations to save some money, too, either by targeting budget Christmas gift ideas or reducing the amount of gifts they buy.

Christmas 2020 is set to be a much smaller affair than any other in living memory, but how small and how restricted we are yet to find out. What we do know is that families will look to spread some festive cheer where they possibly can, whether that’s via a big family zoom call dinner on the 25th or spending a little extra on some presents this year.

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