Presents wrapped in brown paper and eco-friendly leaves

Gifting Trends for the Holiday Season

December 18, 2023
5 min read

With disruptive factors like the cost of living crisis and UK postal strikes negatively influencing how consumers shopped, the UK saw a 2.9% decline in retail spending last holiday season, the largest drop since 1991. 
This year, insights provided by our UK Christmas Gift Buying Market Report 2023 suggest shoppers will still be prioritising value. Additionally, some other key trends we’ve seen are the increase in attitudes toward self-love in retail, considerations for sustainability and a desire to hold onto and reminisce over happy memories.

Mentioning the Unmentionables

Last holiday season, almost half of all consumers gifted someone an item of clothing. As outlined in the UK Retail Rankings 2023, fashion and beauty have continued to grow after being some of the hardest-hit industries in the pandemic. This promising trend is expected to endure, with the spotlight remaining on ‘loving yourself’ and ‘treating yourself’, alongside a resurgence in holiday and post-COVID return-to-office wardrobes, as explored in our UK British Lifestyles Report 2023
UK shoppers are keen to ride the wave of empowerment through fashion with gift-giving. For example, underwear has become a cost-effective way to encourage confidence and self-love in a partner or close friend. And it doesn’t have to be racy lingerie either, many brands are putting extra emphasis on everyday wearability. Lounge.com is a great example of finding the balance between affordability, comfort and a little sexiness.

Not Just an Eco-Friendly Face

38% of respondents reported giving beauty and personal care products to their loved ones last Christmas. Over the years, there has been mounting pressure on beauty and self-care brands to be more transparent about their manufacturing process. However, we have found that the cost of living crisis has resulted in consumers prioritising value over ethics

Eco-friendly beauty products including soap bars and a loafer

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to offer beauty products that align with consumer sustainability values at an affordable price. This might come in the form of value packaging or taking advantage of recycling incentives. For example, LUSH has been exchanging 5 used pots for a free fresh face mask since 2009 – a great idea for a stocking filler! 
Additionally, there has been a boom in hybrid products which allows consumers to shrink their make-up bags and cut down on costs and plastic waste. Think moisturising and colour-correcting foundation, concealer with SPF and highlight and lip/cheek tints. One stand-out brand is REN Clean Skincare,  offering a variety of budget-friendly and sustainable gift sets each boasting a range of benefits such as brightening, firming, hydrating and smoothing, among others.

That New Book Smell

We have found that with multi-channel booksellers, in-store sales still outperform online. We speculate that this is because the bookstore experience, with its inviting atmosphere and possibilities, cannot be fully replicated online. This could be because many readers still enjoy the romantic idea of stumbling upon a new favourite; searching for a title online can sometimes take the fun out of things.

Few retailers capture the charmingly cosy and quaint essence of the bookshop we all have inside our heads like Daunt Books. They do incredibly well at guiding customers to their next read, by arranging them according to country rather than alphabetically. This means readers might serendipitously stumble upon the perfect cookery book when they thought they wanted a historical novel. Daunt Book’s creaky floorboards, antique balusters and glowing green lamps create a bookish ambience that bibliophiles adore. 

There’s also bookshop.org, an e-commerce site with the goal of helping independent bookstores. Purchasing a book from this store will contribute 10% to an earnings pool which will then be distributed to participating bookstores each month. Alternatively, customers can select a specific store and they’ll receive 30% of the cover price – perfect if their loved one has a bookshop that’s close to their heart.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

When it comes to the holiday season, shoppers love tradition. Many lean on the innocent version of Christmas they experienced as a child, like putting out carrots and cookies for Santa and his reindeer. Gifts that evoke cherished memories are widely enjoyed and brands recognise this. For example, confectionary brands in recent years have reverted back to retro or nostalgic packaging to hark back to a ‘before’ time. We predict that consumers will focus particularly on products and experiences that they enjoyed before the pandemic started. 

What We Think

We’re still living through the cost of living crisis and that will greatly affect spending habits this holiday season. However, we’ve found that value isn’t the only factor consumers are thinking about in their present buying. Shoppers are looking to infuse their gift-giving with empowerment, sustainability and nostalgia in an affordable way. As a result, businesses should endeavour to follow these feel-good trends this winter. Take a look at our in-depth market research on Christmas Gift Buying for more expert insights or subscribe to our newsletter, Spotlight, to get free insights delivered directly to your inbox.

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