Boxing day sales to plummet as shoppers remain cautious in light of omicron spread

Boxing day sales are forecast to drop 10% compared to 2019 and down 1% from 2020 as shoppers remain reluctant to hit the high street, according to a new report from VoucherCodes.

The Shopping for Christmas 2021 report reveals that high street spend on December 26 is set to drop 23% on 2019’s figures, from £3.25 billion to £2.51 billion. However, figures show a 11% uplift from £2.26 billion in 2020, as non-essential retail remained closed last year this is not the significant boost retailers were hoping for.

Online spending is also expected to hit £1.43 billion, a 25% rise compared with 2019 sales of £1.14 billion, however this represents a 16% drop from last Christmas when online sales hit £1.71 billion respectively. 

In addition, total spending between December 25 to 31 is predicted to reach £13.9 billion, compared to £15.2 billion in 2019, a 9% drop, and £13.8 billion in 2020, a marginal 1% uplift.

High street sales during the week are also expected to fall by 19% to £7.19 billion compared to £8.88 billion in 2019.

Despite anticipating a 6% uplift on 2020’s high street sales, retailers had expected a bigger figure, as non-essential retail stores are open this Christmas, as opposed to last year’s closures. 

Comparatively, online sales are set to drop from £6.95 billion in 2020 to £6.8 billion this year as a result of stores remaining open. However, online sales are predicted to outpace 2019’s pre-pandemic levels where they stood at £6.27 billion, in a small glimmer of recovery for the industry. 

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“The Boxing Day sales period is notoriously one of the biggest and best-known discounting events in the British retail calendar, but sadly one that has been most badly hit by covid.” VoucherCodes senior director commercial Angus Drummond said.

“This year, during the lead up to Christmas we witnessed retailers battle with the Omicron variant as consumers pulled away from in-store spending in a bid to remain safe and protect their Christmases. At the same time, uncertainty around a potential post-Christmas lockdown has dominated the public conversation, with many consumers preparing for a post-Christmas period under much tighter restrictions.

“Despite no such restrictions having been introduced, the report shows that uncertainties around lockdown and ongoing consumer anxieties around the virus will negatively impact the performance of Boxing Day sales, which are set to fall significantly behind those of 2019, before the pandemic began.

“With news of a potential lockdown having been prominent for over two weeks, it’s likely that many consumers will have made an effort to purchase the things they wanted before Christmas rather than leaving it to chance in the Boxing Day sales.

This, coupled with the fresh memory of last year’s Boxing Day tightening of restrictions means that we anticipate consumers will be making the most of not being in lockdown this week by spending extra time with family and friends, prioritising this over shopping, which will ultimately further negatively impact sales.”

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