Christmas Shopping

Reporter: Clare Brady

Taking on the crowds at the nearest shopping centre, is no longer a given. Retailers, facing a threat to the most lucrative season, are turning shopping trends into a strategic marketing science, to get your money. Christmas shoppers spend $21 billion, up $6 billion from 2002. "This Christmas we're expecting a 4 to 5 million dollar increase on orders compared to last year, over the Christmas period", said Dstore's Andrew Cooper.

Trying to capture on-line shoppers is a growing trend. Time-poor workers and the most savvy buyers, are using the online option. Bianca Kristallis, creator of the pamperhampergift's website is cashing in on the convenience. "It can save you money because websites these days have a section where you can choose what you wish to send. So you can categorise the spending that you wish to spend on someone -- for example, if you only have a budget of $50 there are hundreds of gifts or products to find in that price bracket", Bianca said.

Steve Ogden-Barnes, of Deakin University's School of Business has worked out where and how we spend. "Internet shopping is still a fairly small piece of the retail pie. Best estimates suggest that perhaps only 5% of overall sales are made online, but it's not really the online selling that's the big issue in retail -- it's the online research that takes place by consumers before they visit the shops. Research that's been conducted very recently shows that half of Australian consumers will actually research online before they go in to stores looking", Steve said.

Getprice is one of the biggest online websites in Australia, over the past year boasting more than a 200% increase in sales. It found 85% of Australian shoppers now shop online and 78% said price comparison was the most valuable factor in online shopping.

Regardless of the recovering economy, rising interest rates are reducing disposable household income, so retailers will need to work extra hard to capture Christmas sales. "This is really the year of the value conscious consumer. Lots of people have had a few scares in terms of job security, in terms of investment and because of that, people are really now becoming more cautious. They do more research at home and in store, they shop around, they make better use of coupons, incentives, catalogue promotions, that kind of thing. Perhaps more are ready to haggle, more ready to negotiate, really just trying to make their dollar go further", Steve said.

You may have already been caught by the Christmas creep. "Christmas creep is the term used to define the bringing forward of Christmas. Far from being just a December only event we see reference to Christmas now in September, October and November as well. There's a campaign for example in the UK to prevent Christmas creep and that's led to some fairly extreme examples of demonstration of unhappiness -- people glueing the locks of retailer's doors who had Christmas products on sale -- perhaps too early in their mind", Steve said.

On-line shopping isn't the only emerging trend. Beth Anderson, Editor of Bargain Shopper Magazine, points to gift vouchers as a new and strong force. But she also thinks there is delight in physically buying gifts, surrounded by the seasonal buzz -- the people and atmosphere, adding to the experience.

Westfield's shopping centres alone are expecting 90 million visits over the two months. Margy Osmond of the National Retailers Association also credits vouchers as one of the strongest influences of the last decade. "I think the interesting thing is what people are choosing to buy and use their money for. This year for the first time, gift cards and vouchers have come out as the number one gift that people are expecting to give or would like to receive. I think there's a level of practicality there that says I can get just what I want or the person can use the gift I give them to buy something they want in the sales after Christmas", Margy said.

You'd best get moving if you want to snap up a bargain on Santa's wish list too -- Myer already has it' top ten list.

The first three place getters for women: A hair straightener, then sleepwear packs and a wallet gift pack.

For men: T-shirt gift packs, Guitar Hero 5 and digital cameras.

And for those watching the chimney Christmas Eve, Barbie reigns supreme, the Toy Story's Woody and Lego.

For further information visit:

www.getprice.com.au

www.pamerhampergifts.com.au

www.dstore.com.au

Only 32 sleeps to go!