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UK retailers start selling Christmas earlier than ever, finds Barclays

  • Nearly half (49 per cent) of UK corporate retailers opted to display festive themed goods earlier in the year, with some even displaying goods as early as June , to help customers spread the cost of Christmas amidst ongoing cost of living crunch
  • Sector showing strong resilience as retailers expect a rebound from last year’s drop in sales, which were impacted by rail strikes and decades-high inflation  
  • Retailers anticipate adding thousands of temporary jobs, expanding their workforce by more than a quarter (28 per cent) over the Christmas period to meet demand - with just over two in five (43 per cent) expecting to hire over-50s to help fill these roles

Christmas is coming early for the UK’s corporate retail sector, with nearly half (49 per cent) opting to display festive-themed goods earlier this year to help their customers spread out the cost of Christmas. In fact, a quarter (25 per cent) now put up Christmas displays as early as September, with the majority (57 per cent) going up by October. A small number of retailers (1 per cent) even started putting up Christmas displays in June.

This is according to data from the Barclays Business Barometer, which measures the UK corporate business environment in the hospitality and leisure, retail and manufacturing industries.1

Retailers are showing strong resilience in the face of a challenging economic environment, with optimism that the coming ‘critical Christmas’ period will deliver a rebound in sales compared to last year’s disappointing season. In addition to selling Christmas goods earlier, the industry expects sales will accelerate in Q4, with retailers anticipating average revenue growth of 20 per cent quarter on quarter compared to 2022.

The sector’s optimism is fuelled by expectations that consumers will return to the high street, with three in five retailers (60 per cent) expecting greater footfall in stores this year, compared to online shopping.

Santa’s helpers

More than four in five (82 per cent) retailers anticipate relying on a temp workforce during this festive season, with those hiring expecting to expand the size of their current workforce by more than a quarter (28 per cent) in order to meet anticipated demand.

The sector’s resilience is further underscored by the fact that 23 per cent of retailers plan to hire more compared to previous Christmases. This is set to impact all demographics of workers, with 43 per cent of large retailers expecting to hire over-50s in order to meet demand. 

At the same time, employee welfare remains a top priority. More than half of large retailers (51 per cent) stated that they would not be opening for sales on Boxing Day, in order to give their employees an extra day off.

Investing in infrastructure

With more consumers opting to do their Christmas shops in person rather than online, over two-thirds (67 per cent) of retailers have invested in better customer experiences at their stores. In addition, 64 per cent have invested in data analytics and other similar technologies in order to improve customer loyalty.

Furthermore, the majority (56 per cent) have also invested in their own delivery infrastructure this year, in order to minimise any supply chain disruptions for consumers.

Karen Johnson, Head of Retail and Wholesale, Barclays Corporate Banking, said: “After a not-so-festive 2022 season, and amidst widespread concern over the health of the economy, retailers have moved decisively to build resilience. Focusing on Christmas goods earlier, investing in infrastructure and expanding temporary hiring are all positive indicators that the sector is well-placed for what is a critical Christmas.

“Though consumer demand has been weak in recent months as warm weather has dampened the Christmas spirit, there are early signs that customers remain committed to Christmas and this year will see strong sales for retailers, benefiting the industry and giving the UK economy a potential boost as the year draws to a close.”



1Barclays commissioned Censuswide to conduct its large-business focused Barclays Business Barometer research. The study was conducted among 1,500 senior decision makers in the UK, split evenly three ways between leisure and hospitality; retail; and manufacturing, with a turnover of £6.5m+, with 25% of respondents from firms with £25m+ in revenue. There was a minimum of 50 respondents from Scotland. The research was conducted between 17 October 2023 – 31 October 2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles. Throughout, ‘strongly agree’ and ‘somewhat agree’ are combined into one netted ‘agree’ figure.

About Barclays

Barclays is a British universal bank. We are diversified by business, by different types of customer and client, and geography. Our businesses include consumer banking and payments operations around the world, as well as a top-tier, full service, global corporate and investment bank, all of which are supported by our service company which provides technology, operations and functional services across the Group. For further information about Barclays, please visit our website

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