Woman's hand holding four Christmas shopping bags in street

Christmas Shopping Trends in the UK

September 28, 2023
5 min read

Christmas Food Spending Habits

Grocery Budget Retailers See Big Spending Boosts

In the UK, the cost of living crisis had a tangible impact on food spending around the festive period. Consumers are looking more closely at their bank balance when spending money on festive groceries, with discount supermarkets seeing major growth in their sales. In 2022, Aldi saw their best-ever Christmas regarding December sales figures, while Lidl also saw a 25% year-on-year increase in the period running up to Christmas.

However, budget supermarkets weren’t the only ones reporting positive figures, even in spite of tightened household finances around the UK. Some families opted for more premium grocery retailers, like Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, to indulge in luxury value. M&S Food reached its highest-ever market share during the period running up to Christmas, so it is clear that some households buy into great value through more premium brands rather than following the cheapest price tag.

Gifting Festive Food & Drink

Giving food and drink items has traditionally been popular at Christmas time; from luxury chocolates to flavoured spirits. In 2021, 34% of UK gift buyers reported purchasing food and drink items as gifts around Christmas, which dipped slightly to 33% in 2022. So, though there has been a little fluctuation in how many grocery gifts are being given, Brits continue to opt for chocolates, alcoholic beverages, coffee, cooking kits, and more when it comes to Christmas gifting. The most popular aisle to shop for food & drink gifts is by far alcoholic beverages, as more than half of food & drink gifts given fall into this category. For food gifts, chocolate comes out on top, as almost four out of five food gifts are chocolate-based. 

Christmas Food & Drink Product Launches

Across global markets, the UK is strongly represented in new product launches around Christmas, with 16% of new seasonal product launches coming from the UK alone. This highlights just how fond Brits are of festive food and drink, as brands are keen to cater to our taste for seasonally special products.

Table full of Christmas food including mince pies and gingerbread men
Popular Christmas food and drink items on a table. Source: GettyImages

Christmas Present Buying Trends

Clothes Are Top of the Christmas List

What was on your Christmas list this year? If you’re always hoping to unwrap a designer label or new dress, you’re probably in luck as just under 50% of gifts given in 2022 were clothing, as identified in our 2023 UK Christmas Gift Buying Report. Other key categories of gifts include books, food & drink, and toiletries. Toys & games were surprisingly low on the list and video games even lower. This may be unexpected as, among gift givers who are parents, 9 out of 10 gifts were given to children and grandchildren. Perhaps children are more commonly receiving practical gifts like clothing and personal care items rather than games and toys. 

Finding Alternative Gift Options

Consumers are also leaning more towards alternative and intangible gifts, with 6% of gifts being experiences, 5% being digital content, and 1% being donations to charities. With the cost of living making the Christmas budget a little tighter for many this year, we are also seeing a focus on reducing spending on Christmas gifts from the majority of consumers. Interestingly, more chose to cut back on smaller gifts like stocking fillers than choosing to not give gifts at all, and more still than those who chose to buy discounted gifts. What we may be seeing, then, is that gift-giving still holds value as a tradition that most would prefer not to forgo. 

The Christmas Shopping Window

It seems like shops start releasing their Christmas ranges and hanging decorations in-store earlier each year, but when do British shoppers start thinking about Christmas shopping? Most consumers start buying gifts for Christmas in November, though a quarter start in September or earlier. The vast majority of gifts are purchased in November and December, and this is reflected in when most money is spent on gifts. What this may represent is that though some consumers begin buying Christmas gifts early in the year, generally the big ticket items are purchased closer to the festive season. 

A couple Christmas window shopping holding shopping bags
Couple window shopping at Christmas time. Source: GettyImages

What We Think

In the wake of the cost of living crisis, Christmas spending trends in 2022 showed a little bit more restriction than in previous years. Though British shoppers are still spending plenty of money on gifting and merriment throughout the festive season in the UK, consumers are being more selective with their spending. Many are choosing budget grocery retailers for buying their Christmas dinner and buffet bits and pieces, though plenty of consumers are still loyal to luxury brands for that extra special festive flavour.

When it comes to gifting, the most prominent option was clothing, followed by toiletries, books, and food & drink. With a smaller budget than in previous years for many consumers, buyers generally opted to cut back on stocking fillers to save money. 

To find out more about how you can strengthen your brand value and ensure your business’ growth across the holiday season, check out our Christmas Gift Buying and The Future of Christmas Food and Drink Market Reports and buy today.

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