Shoppers spent more on Christmas 2020 than in previous year

‘Mission’ shopping replaced browsing with spending in toy stores up 45% on 2019

Grafton Street, Dublin: Revolut’s 1.2 million customers here, on average, spent 6 per cent more last December than in the same month in 2019. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Grafton Street, Dublin: Revolut’s 1.2 million customers here, on average, spent 6 per cent more last December than in the same month in 2019. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Shoppers spent significantly more in the four weeks up to Christmas than they did the previous year, according to data, which shows that footfall numbers climbed to just below pre-Covid-19 numbers.

However, browsing practically disappeared, with people knowing exactly what they wanted to buy before they went to shopping centres and main shopping streets.

Data published by digital payments platform Revolut show its more than 1.2 million customers in the State, on average, spent 6 per cent more last December than in the same month in 2019.

It recorded a surge in spending across almost all retail categories in December, with spending in toy stores up by 45 per cent on the previous year. Home and furnishing stores jumped by an even more impressive 81 per cent.

Jewellers, meanwhile, experienced a 17 per cent bounce. The only retail sectors which saw falls in spending year on year were department stores and shoe shops, with both seeing trade decline by 12 per cent.

Tracking data from Google suggests that people started moving around more freely as Christmas approached with footfall levels climbing to just below pre-pandemic levels.

However, the sharp rise in infections and tighter restrictions saw a sudden fall from December 26th, and Irish retail and recreational footfall is now among the lowest in Europe.

The data from Revolut also pointed to a significant shift in online spending last month. All told, 43 per cent of spending online went to Irish firms with the remainder going overseas, up from 35 per cent a year earlier.

“Some retailers did well, better I think than many would have expected before Christmas,” said TU Dublin academic and retail analyst Damien O’Reilly.

“I think fashion struggled because people had so few places to go in terms of social occasions in the run-up to Christmas.”

However, he said online shopping was strong for much of December and, while footfall in shops was down, “the conversion rate went up significantly, there was little browsing and instead we saw mission shopping”.

Mr O’Reilly said that while footfall had been high in out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks, town and city centres struggled. He said the decision to reopen retail at the start of December “was essential for the survival of many” who needed to generate sales and shift stock.

‘Better than expected’

Duncan Graham, of Retail Excellence, said many of the umbrella group’s members found the run-up to Christmas to be “better than expected”.

He said there was a surge in online sales from the start of November which carried over into early December before people started spending in bricks-and-mortar shops after the restrictions were eased.

Things “started to tail off” in the final days before Christmas due to there not being the same influx of people returning for Christmas who “would typically leave it late”, Mr Graham said.

Trading declined dramatically in the week after Christmas, he said, as the deferment of winter sales, warnings from Government and the surge in Covid-19 cases had a dramatic impact on consumer behaviour, turning a traditionally busy period into “a damp squib”.

Arnold Dillon, of Ibec group Retail Ireland, said December was “very good” but that headline figures did not tell the full story.

“While the grocery sector may have done extremely well, other sectors will have struggled,” he said, noting that fashion and footwear shops had “taken a big hit”.