Customer Contact

Almost one in five of us has already done almost all the Christmas shopping. Some 18% of Britons are reckoned to have bought most of their gifts by the end of October – a much higher proportion than any of our European neighbours.

The figures are based on a survey of 1,000 shoppers undertaken by the Centre for Retail Research for

Indeed, 11% of Brits start their shopping in September or earlier and another 18% did so last month – though almost two in five of us will leave it until December.

Those behind the survey believe it’s because British families want to spread the cost.

When do you start your Christmas shopping?
September or earlier October November December
UK 11% 18% 32% 39%
France 6% 5% 16% 73%
Germany 7% 14% 30% 49%
Italy 2% 9% 19% 70%
Spain 5% 7% 17% 71%
Netherlands 3% 16% 67% 14%
Belgium 6% 8% 24% 62%
United States 9% 25% 34% 32%
Canada 7% 33% 36% 24%
AVERAGE 6% 11% 29% 54%

“Savvy shoppers seem to be planning ahead, taking advantage of flash sales and the wealth of ways to save, including discount sites and vouchers,” says Jimmy New, director of marketing at

But this is not only about spending. The two million-strong Association of British Credit Unions (ABCUL) network across the country has a long history of supporting saving schemes for Christmas. Matt Bland, head of policy at ABCUL, says this is because paying for Christmas is a key source of financial stress and worry.

“Everyone wants to give their children a Christmas to remember but finding the money to do so is not always easy with the pressures on family finances.”

Being organised means families do not have to worry about how they will pay for Christmas in January.

The popularity of November events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also behind Christmas coming early, explains Mr New, with a third of Brits starting their shopping this month:

“This is promising news for retailers who will see sales continue to ramp up in the run-up to Christmas.”

When do you expect to complete 90% of your Christmas shopping?
September or earlier October November December
UK 4% 18% 20% 58%
France 2% 5% 13% 80%
Germany 5% 10% 23% 62%
Italy 2% 4% 21% 73%
Spain 2% 5% 15% 78%
Netherlands 1% 14% 67% 18%
Belgium 2% 6% 23% 69%
United States 5% 18% 20% 57%
Canada 6% 21% 22% 51%
AVERAGE 3% 9% 26% 62%

The research puts the UK in line with the United States and Canada, where more than 20% of shoppers expect to complete the vast majority of their spending before the end of November.

Almost two in five of us will have completed most of our Christmas shopping by the end of this month. But this does not include spending on all the food and booze.

Last Christmas, we spent an estimated £22bn on groceries, with two-thirds of shoppers seeing the festive period as a time to splash the cash, according to analysts IGD.

But independent food shops have long been supporting organised families to spread the cost over the entire year. One is PJ Howarth butchers in the Manchester suburb of Urmston.

“We’ve been running a payment scheme as long as I can remember,” says owner Jon Howarth. “Christmas is off the scale really – until you’ve been a butcher you’ve not experienced Christmas.

“If you’re organised it’s a dream. If not it’s a nightmare.”

Jon estimates customers can spend an average of £150 at Christmas time and his scheme allows them to pay a few pounds at a time from January onwards.

“It’s popular, it’s steady,” he says. “But next year I want to expand it to a general loyalty scheme so families can save and spread costs all year round. And they can’t do that at a big supermarket.”

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