Neil Mason
Director of Retail Research - EMEA, Neil Mason manages Mintel's UK and European Retail Reports.

A trip to the shops on Boxing Day is a tradition for many families during the festive period, but like much of life since the pandemic hit it will be dramatically altered this year. In particular given the recent revision in the tiering system with much of London and the South East now in Tier 4 over the festive period and the resulting closure of non-essential stores.

Boxing Day is likely to be a largely online event. In truth online has been growing in importance on Boxing Day for many years, with many shoppers choosing to for-go the crowds for the comfort of ordering on the sofa, but with concerns around the virus still high the added complexity of mixing in crowds whilst in family bubbles will keep more shoppers away than ever.

Indeed with 72% of shoppers saying they would limit their time in crowded areas before seeing family for Christmas, it is clear this feeling will translate into the Christmas bubble itself particularly as the official guidance has warned against crowded high-streets during the period. This is why many retailers have taken the step to close stores on Boxing Day both to reduce the temptation to visit and to give staff a very well earned extended Christmas break.

Of course visiting the high street at Christmas is more than simply shopping, but with approximately 30% of the UK population now in tier 3 this means those areas which would have encouraged shoppers to visit, bars and restaurants, are also not available. A further 30% who are in Tier 4 will have even tighter restrictions with non-essential stores all closed until the next review on 30th December.

There will be demand to be captured and we would expect to see significant promotional activity on Boxing Day but like most of the year the focus will be online and any trade at store level will be significantly altered from what has come before.