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A survey released today looking into Christmas shopping trends reveals that 63% of consumers intend to spend more or the same this year than previously despite the ongoing challenging economic conditions.

The survey, commissioned by BrandAlley, the UK’s leading provider of online private sales with 2.5 million members, was conducted last week by Framework, the independent data processing bureau, amongst 2,000 people in the UK, made up of both BrandAlley customers and non-customers.

The survey also found that many shoppers (a total of 70%) think that there will be significant discounts available before the traditional January sales and will be relying on these for their Christmas shopping, suggesting that stores which offer early discounts will perform well.

Rob Feldmann, CEO of BrandAlley UK, thinks that the question, as ever, will remain which of the big high street retailers will start their sale first: “For many brands not wanting to detract from their full priced items in store, having an online outlet to offer discounted stock can be the most effective way of securing sales whilst maintaining the consumer’s experience of their brand on the high street.”

The demand for discounted stock reinforces BrandAlley’s notion that consumers are becoming increasingly savvy shoppers, as the survey also revealed that 90% said that their spending on clothes and shoes has either stayed the same or decreased during the economic downturn. In addition 91% of shoppers expect that many of their clothes purchases going forward will be made at a discount price, leaving only 9% continuing to pay full price for most items. This suggests that whilst consumers may have less to spend, they have become increasingly focused on how to make their money stretch further.

Given that 90% have reduced their overall spending, it seems that shoppers are looking online for better value. Only one in 25 consumers has reduced their level of online shopping during the downturn. This is further reinforced by figures released by the Office for National Statistics on 20 October 2011 that showed one pound in every ten is spent online, a share which is more than three times bigger than it was in early 2007.

Rob Feldmann continued: “The current economic climate with increasing inflationary pressures has undoubtedly constrained the retail sector, however, as this survey clearly illustrates, consumers are not necessarily spending less but are definitely becoming more savvy in their spending. Discount buying is increasingly becoming the norm and people expect to find the best offers online.

“The survey also found that only 16% of consumers plan to go back to the high street once economic conditions improve rather than continuing to do the majority of their shopping online, citing the continuing increase in the cost of high street shopping such as parking, transport and eating out as the main reasons for this. Whilst this does not necessarily spell the end of the high street, retailers will need to adapt quickly in order to be successful and ensure that their high street offering of full price stock is backed up with the availability of discounts online.”

Commenting on the retail trends arising from this survey, Andrew Wade, Director of Equity Research-Retail for Numis Securities, said: “There is absolutely more pressure for high street retailers to discount this year. Of course going on sale all the time will impact on consumers’ impressions of a brand and they know with some stores they can wait a few weeks and goods will be discounted. This is not true of all retailers and some are holding their nerve.”

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