Aston research shows spending down on Christmas gifts

Festive advertising campaigns failing to deliver
Spending on Christmas gifts down for third year in row as 'festive fatigue' takes hold

20 December 2017 

  • Aston University research shows spending on gifts falling for third year in a row
  • Advertising campaigns failing to inspire shoppers as ‘festive fatigue’ takes hold
  • Good news for IKEA and Body Shop, mixed news for John Lewis

Retailers are fighting a losing battle to persuade shoppers to splash more cash at Christmas, new research shows. 

Data from the Aston Centre for Retail Insights (ACRI) suggests that consumer spending is continuing to be squeezed, and that seasonal advertising is failing to engage adequately with the public.

The ACRI’s Christmas Shopping Survey 2017 shows consumers plan to spend an average of £408 each on Christmas presents – down from £429 in 2016 and £441 in 2015. That figure is all the more worrying for retailers against a backdrop of rising inflation.

ACRI researchers, based at Birmingham’s Aston University, also found 6 per cent of those surveyed planned to avoid Christmas shopping completely.

Heiner Evanschitzky, Professor and Chair of Marketing at Aston Business School, said:  “The challenges facing traditional retailers have been well documented but what is particularly worrying for them is not just that spending on presents continues to drop – it’s also that their messages simply aren’t engaging with consumers.

“Put simply, shoppers do not feel very inspired by Christmas offers. Those big-budget advertising campaigns are no longer enough – the average consumer now judges them to be only ‘somewhat emotional’ and it’s likely that shoppers are suffering from ‘festive fatigue’ where ad campaigns are concerned.”

The Aston team also looked at the impact of customer “inspiration” – how engaged consumers are by the shopping experience and advertising around that experience. Aston research has shown that more inspired customers will buy more from a retailer.

Aston’s Professor Markus Blut said: “Furniture retailing is the area most sensitive to inspiration levels – and that’s good news for IKEA, who score highest in this sector.

“John Lewis score highest for their homeware and electronics departments but their furniture offering is comparatively weak – having Moz the Monster under the bed may not encourage furniture sales. In the health and beauty sector, The Body Shop is seen as the most inspirational retailer.”

Professor Christof Backhaus, who was also involved with the research, said: “More research would be needed to draw up a definitive ‘inspirational retailer ranking’ but these findings certainly show key differences in how the shopping experience is perceived in different outlets.”

When it comes to where people are shopping, high street operators appear to have adapted to the rise of online shopping, although speciality stores have been hit hard by online competition.

Some 80 per cent of those surveyed for the ACRI intend to buy at least some of their Christmas presents online, and 15 per cent shop with their mobile phone for gifts.

Local high street outlets are used by 50 per cent of shoppers, major supermarkets by 47 per cent, department stores by 42 per cent and shopping centres by 40 per cent. Those figures represent a stable share compared with last year but the outlook for speciality stores is less encouraging, with only 22 per cent of shoppers intending to use them.

And what do we want to receive as presents? The most popular gifts are also the most “sensible”.

Prof Evanschitzky said: “The most desired Christmas presents this year are clothing and shoes, which are the choice of 28 per cent of the people we surveyed.

“Almost a quarter of people – 24 per cent – would rather choose their own present, saying they’d like to receive gift vouchers. And 19 per cent would just like to get away from it all, hoping to receive a holiday of some sort as a present.”

The ACRI study is based on a representative sample of 1,053 consumers aged 18-65 who live in Great Britain.


Notes to the editor

About Professor Heiner Evanschitzky: Heiner is Professor and Chair of Marketing at Aston Business School. He currently serves as Associate Editor of the British Journal of Management, and has had more than 150 articles and chapters published in specialist journals and proceedings. Before joining Aston, he worked as Assistant and Associate Professor at the Marketing Centre at Muenster University in Germany, and as Professor of Marketing at the University of Strathclyde. 

About Professor Markus Blut:  Markus is Professor and Chair of Marketing at Aston Business School. He is widely published and his work has been recognised with multiple Best Paper awards at marketing conferences. Before joining Aston, he was Professor of Marketing at Newcastle University Business School, and has been invited as visiting professor at the University of Alabama, Florida Atlantic University and Australia’s Curtin University. 

About Professor Christof Backhaus: Christof joined Aston Business School as a Professor and Chair in Marketing in September 2016. Before, he worked as an Assistant Professor at the Universities of Dortmund, Bochum and Braunschweig in Germany, and as a Professor of Marketing at Newcastle University Business School. Widely published, his research interests focus on retail and services marketing and management.

About Aston University: Founded in 1895 and a university since 1966, Aston is a long-established research-led university known for its world-class teaching quality, and strong links to business and the professions. Aston University is located in Birmingham, at the heart of a vibrant city, and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive.

Aston has been a leading university for graduate employment success for more than 25 years, and our students do extremely well in securing top jobs and careers. Our strong relationships with industry partners mean we understand the needs of employers, which is why we are ranked in the top 20 for graduate employability.

For more information, call Kenny Campbell on 07824 156 311 or email 

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