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Date: 27th Nov 2017

The secret behind stress-free Christmas shopping

Some Christmases feel busier than others when it comes to doing your festive food shopping, buying the last of your presents, and getting the best deals online. And it’s no wonder, because the busiest days of the festive period change every year.

At MBNA we’re good with the numbers, so our number experts pored through our transactions data to reveal when the busy spells are – so you can feel merrier, with less hurry, as you’re doing your Christmas shopping. Take a look at our top 5 findings and make a note of our checklist for a stress-free Christmas.

1. Saturday 23 December is the day of the Great British Christmas Food Shop 2017

While it may seem that supermarkets start selling crackers, nuts and turkeys before you’ve even started putting the heating on for the winter, Brits don’t get the big Christmas food shop done until 2 days before the day itself.

Given the perishable nature of the meat and veg that’ll be gracing the table at your family feast, it stands to reason that the Great British Christmas Food Shop is done at the eleventh hour.

Over the past 2 years, 23 December has been the day that’s seen the highest number of credit card transactions in the nation’s supermarkets. A total of 152,244 – collectively worth over £6.8m – were made in 2015, while last year saw a slight dip to 142,136 transactions – amounting to £6.3m.

As 23 December falls on a Saturday this year, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be the day most of us will be frantically wheeling our trolleys from aisle to aisle, with December 22 and Christmas Eve following close behind. If you want to beat the rush, it might be an idea to pick another day for your big Christmas shop.

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2. Most gifts are bought on the last Saturday before Christmas

You might think you’re the only person who hasn’t got their Christmas presents bought, wrapped and under the tree with a good month to spare. But you’d be wrong. Prepare for pandemonium on Saturday 16 December 2017, which is likely to be the day most Brits buy their festive gifts.

When you exclude supermarkets, the last Saturday before Christmas has been the busiest shopping day for two years running. In 2015, there were 120,066 transactions on the last Saturday before Christmas, and 116,051 in 2016.

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This year, the last Saturday before Christmas is 23 December – which we think may be a bit too close for comfort for some. Instead, we reckon Saturday 16 December will be the day that the nation ventures out to shop for the ones they love.

However, the busy shopping days aren’t restricted to December. Brits also tend to buy gifts in bulk a month before Christmas Day – on the Saturday after Black Friday. In 2015, the value of transactions made on Saturday 28 November (the day after Black Friday) was £7.6m – higher than any other day. The corresponding Saturday in 2016 saw £6.8m worth of transactions made – the second-highest transaction value after the Saturday before Christmas.

Let’s break these figures down a bit further.

  • In clothing stores, the top 3 busiest days in 2015 were Saturday 28 November (after Black Friday) Saturday 12 December and Saturday 19 December – each pulling in more than 26,000 transactions.
  • It was much the same in 2016, when the 3 equivalent days (Saturday 26 November, Saturday 10 December and Saturday 17 December) reported 23,838, 24,214 and 25,185 transactions respectively.
  • In household stores – covering a wide range of brands from Harvey Nichols to Poundland – the last 2 Saturdays before Christmas Eve saw the highest volume of transactions, along with the 2 days before Christmas Eve.
  • The Saturday after Black Friday saw the most cash spent in household stores – £3.3m in 2015 and £3m in 2016.

We’re predicting Saturday 16 December will be the day that sees the most transactions.

3. People buy Christmas cards later than you might think

You might assume that Brits buy their Christmas cards way before the chaos sets in, but our data suggests the opposite.
Last year there were more credit card transactions in high street card retailers such as Clintons and Card Factory on Saturday 17 December (almost 2,000) than on any other day.

Another busy day for card shoppers in 2016 was Monday 19 December, which was the third most popular day in high street card stores. There were more than 1,500 transactions made on this day, worth a total of almost £19,000. Shoppers would have had to hurry to get them in the post on time as the Post Office’s send-by date for Christmas deliveries was the very next day, Tuesday 20 December.

Having crunched our data, we predict Saturday 16 December (yes, that Saturday - again) will be the busiest day to go Christmas card shopping.

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4. Online shopping isn’t a last resort at Christmas

Online shopping isn’t such a last-minute resort, you know. With online shoppers keen to grab a bargain before Christmas, Cyber Monday (30 November) was the busiest day in 2015, with 95,065 online credit card transactions made on one of the biggest online retailer sites – worth £2.4m. Last year, shoppers spent more on Cyber Monday (£2m) than any other day, but more transactions (84,907) were actually made on Monday 12 December.

Generally, demand for goods from one of the biggest online retailers trails off after the second Monday in December – so we’re predicting the busiest online shopping day to be Monday 11 December.

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Your checklist for a stress-free Christmas

Here’s how you can use our findings to beat the rush and take it easy on yourself this Christmas.

  • Consider embarking on your big Christmas food shop on Thursday 21 December – while the supermarket will still be busy, chances are it won’t be as chaotic as the days that follow.
  • Try to buy your Christmas gifts during the week, rather than leaving it to the weekend. Saturdays rule the roost as the number 1 shopping day of the week in the month-long run-up to Christmas.
  • Consider buying your Christmas shopping online – it’s a good way to avoid being distracted by that giant cheeseboard and port gift set. Drawing up a meal plan for Christmas week can also cut down on food waste.
  • Whenever you buy your Christmas cards, don’t miss the last Christmas post. Send second-class cards by Wednesday 20 December, and first-class cards by Thursday 21 December – they’re the Post Office’s recommended last posting dates.

Get in there early if you’re shopping online. From Cyber Monday, there could be limited stock available on high-demand items, such as this year’s must-have children’s toys.