UK Holiday Sales to Hit Nearly £100 Billion

Ecommerce to exceed 20% of all retail holiday sales

November 19, 2018

The UK holiday shopping season is on pace to hit two major milestones this year. The holiday season, which eMarketer defines as November and December, is the most important retail period in nearly all major European markets.

This year in the UK, total holiday sales will jump 4.7% to reach £98.06 billion ($126.26 billion). The strong spending will be fueled by low unemployment, low inflation and strong wage growth in the UK, despite ominous daily headlines warning of Brexit and economic uncertainty.

Though the bulk of spending still takes place in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the holiday shopping period in most European countries starts earlier each year. While Thanksgiving is not a public holiday in the UK, many consumers will shop on Black Friday. And because of the lack of a physical holiday, digital channels play a much bigger role than they do in the US. However, there are signs that UK consumers are losing interest in Black Friday, partly because they feel that significantly better discounts can be found at other times.

“Consumers are increasingly ambivalent about how they buy things. They still spend more in-store than they do online, but they’re quick to go to a retailer’s website if that’s the best option at the time. In the run-up to Christmas, when there are no public holidays in the UK, digital options are particularly appealing,” said eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher.

Another major milestone this year is the percentage of shopping that will be done online. UK holiday ecommerce will jump nearly 16% this year to £21.22 billion ($27.33 billion). That represents 21.6% of total holiday sales, the highest percentage ever.

“The UK benefits from a robust system for fulfilling orders, allowing for multiple delivery options—including home delivery with package tracking, and buy online, pick up in store,” said Fisher.