Just add sparkle (and the golden quarter will shine)

Last week gave us the headline that YOY retail sales were down in October. As the first month of the famous ‘golden quarter’, this understandably gave retailers some cause for concern.

Last week gave us the headline that YOY retail sales were down in October. As the first month of the famous ‘golden quarter’, this understandably gave retailers some cause for concern.

Many retail experts were quick to explain away this dip – with reasons ranging from sales in October 2016 being unusually strong, to milder weather putting people off buying winter clothes – but it is hard not to discern a general gloom in the air. As inflation grows, interest rates rise and the realities of Brexit loom closer, are we getting more reluctant to splash out?

Whatever your religious beliefs, Christmas is a well-timed event for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Life is a bit cold, dark and miserable – so what better way to cheer us all up than with some sparkly lights and a mug of mulled wine?

I sound flippant here, but actually I believe that Christmas offers enormous value in making people feel happier. Christmas parties, lunches, shopping trips, that “we must get a date in before Christmas” promise – these are all catalysts to creating a positive social experience at a time when the weather might have us hibernating until March.

And part of that positive experience is the tradition of giving gifts. It may be a cliché (that no one under the age of about 25 would ever believe) but the giving bit really is more gratifying than the receiving. Not only is it a way to show affection, it is also self-affirming – as a symbol of generosity, and of the ability to find and afford ‘the perfect gift’.

Retailers have a key role to play in switching on this mindset – perhaps more so this year than most. We are facing inflation – but experts believe it has already hit its peak. Interest rates have risen – but only by 0.25% and everyone agrees that further rate rises will be slow and measured. And Brexit is happening, but no one can guarantee that life will be worse when it does.

While no one should encourage people to spend money they don’t have, perhaps using the spirit of Christmas to lift consumer mood is a positive thing. It is well documented that consumer confidence is key to a strong economy, and people are pre-conditioned to feeling good in the run up to the festive season.

So let’s crank up the Christmas tunes, match their generosity with thoughtful offers and personal service, and give consumers a reason to feel good. Infuse shoppers with festive cheer, and in all likeliness, the much-needed golden quarter sales will start to roll in.

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MASH Staffing