After enduring almost seven months of restrictions imposed to combat COVID-19, with little sign they will be eased as we head into winter, British consumers seem determined to make the most of this year’s Christmas shopping season.

According to Kinetic Worldwide, the out-of-home agency owned by WPP, more than half of UK adults, rising to three-quarters of 18–34-year olds, say Christmas will be more important than ever this year.

So much so that Kinetic’s regular Alfresco Life survey found that 28% of consumers have already started shopping for Christmas, with a majority (58%) planning to spend the same as last year and a further 16% who intend to spend more.

Another quarter (25%) say they will start shopping for gifts in October, while a similar proportion (23%) say they have started their festive preparations earlier than usual this year.

Despite numerous reports confirming a sharp increase in online shopping this year, 37% of Kinetic’s respondents say they will carry out at least some shopping in physical stores, with a third stating that this is important for inspiration.

Indeed, Kinetic found that 56% of UK adults prefer to shop in-store whenever they can, while two-thirds (63%) of 18–34-years olds say they missed visiting shops during lockdown.

Quite apart from the shared experience that festive bricks-and-mortar shopping can provide, it seems part of the motivation for shopping in-store is because consumers are becoming accustomed to wearing a face mask.

According to Kinetic, a full 80% of consumers say wearing a mask either doesn’t bother them or is just a minor inconvenience that will not stop them from visiting stores, while just 21% say having to wear one reduced the amount they spend on the high street.

Furthermore, the Kinetic survey suggests local restrictions and lockdowns – the UK government’s current strategy for dealing with spikes of the disease – is having only a limited impact on footfall.

Looking at the week of 14th September, Kinetic found footfall declined just 1–2% in Greater Manchester and Bolton as people there adjusted to the 'rule of six' and other restrictions.

Meanwhile, Blackburn and Burnley – two other areas in the north of England subject to local restrictions – saw 1–2% growth, which Kinetic said was evidence that restrictions have little impact on out-of-home consumption.

“In spite of new restrictions and localised lockdowns threatening the upcoming festive season, our study suggests a remarkable resilience in people’s shopping behaviour and a steely determination amongst UK consumers to make the most of this year’s Christmas season,” said Nicole Lonsdale, chief planning officer at Kinetic.

“Our analysis of audience mobility and footfall suggests the desire to shop in-store remains an important aspect of everyday life,” she added.

Sourced from Kinetic Worldwide