Christmas in the UK is the season that can make or break a retailer or brand’s year but is just one of the parts of life likely to be changed beyond recognition in 2020 – with the hobbies and practices taken up in lockdown front and centre, new research from eBay suggests those passions and a new sense of prudence are likely to inform the season.

A survey of 2064 UK customers who use eBay (and celebrate Christmas) shows that over a third (34%) have already bought some festive-related items already. The behaviour, the online shopping site says, is backed up by additional insights from the 32 million monthly visits to its UK site, which shows that searches for ‘Christmas’ or ‘xmas’ are up 44% year on year in April and May 2020.

It matters because Christmas matters to brands and it matters to people – for most, it is the only chance to share a week or more’s holiday with the people they know and love. It’s also a time of great expectations built up over years or decades: spending on food, drink, and gifts is taken very seriously.

Financial worries. The main areas of doubt are, unsurprisingly, financial. 37% of respondents said that income or financial security was a top factor that will influence what they decide to buy or how they spend on gifts and celebrations in the run up to Christmas.

Compared to last year, the report adds, where UK consumers spent an average of £551 on Christmas shopping and celebrations, just under half (44%) say they plan to keep their spending the same. 31% say they plan to lower their spend.

As the last few months’ headlines have indicated, the large number of redundancies – and the likelihood of more following the end of furlough in October – means that 20% of respondents already know that cost effective celebrations will be key.

How people are shopping. The core finding from the report is that the “passions” cultivated during the months of lockdown are likely to continue into a socially-distanced autumn.

Online shopping is the new normal: 44% plan to do more Christmas shopping online, while a third claim they will only shop online this year.

As many as 56% of respondents have taken up a new hobby or interest (and 31% observing a family member doing the same). Of those new hobbyists, a full three quarters intend to continue this.

Among these new hobbies, the most popular are:

  • Baking (20%)
  • Gardening (20%)
  • DIY or home improvement (14%)
  • Sport or fitness (14%)
  • Board games or jigsaw puzzles (10%)
  • Crafts (10%)
  • Video games (9%)
  • Drawing or painting (7%)
  • Photography (5%)
  • Hair and beauty (4%)
  • Musical instrument (4%)

What to do about it? It’s going to be a different kind of Christmas and marketers will need to be flexible, but for certain brands the following will be key:

  • A strong e-commerce presence will be necessary for success during a socially-distant Christmas
  • The economic effects of the pandemic are unevenly distributed. While some people will be worse off, others will have been saving money. This means shifting the balance of when to demonstrate luxury and when to demonstrate value.
  • Christmas will be extremely important to a country reeling. The effects on morale and the macro situation will be extremely important for brands to follow. It’s likely that the bigger picture, rather than the latest fashion, will be key this year.

Sourced from eBay, additional content by WARC staff