In the run-up to the Christmas break, BMG has conducted research on the views and festive purchasing habits of the British public. From what people spend their money on, to budgeting and planning for the winter break, the series will give a brief overview of consumer’s behaviours and concerns.

The first in a three-part mini-series on Christmas Shopping in Britain, this particular edition explores people’s anxieties in the lead-up to festivities.

For some, Christmas can often be a stressful time of the year. With all the travel, cooking and reunions, the winter holiday can seem anything other than a ‘break’. However, though it is perhaps unsurprising to reveal that the majority of us are indeed still looking forward to Christmas, it could be argued that there a few more ‘humbugs’ than most of us might have expected. The chart below shows the results for whether people agree or disagree with the statement “I’m looking forward to Christmas“.

But Christmas isn’t all mince pies and sherry, the celebrations cost money and for some they can be a severe burden on their finances. Inevitably, for some of us there will be something of a contradiction in our views; that we can still be looking forward to Christmas, whilst we worry about the cost, particularly for the poorest. But while the cost of Christmas is subjective; it is of course up to you how much you spend. However, through advertising and social networks, society has its way of telling us what gifts, food and decorations are socially desirable, and they don’t often tend to be the cheapest. Social pressure is inevitable at this time of year, and though many of us will have other financial priorities; such as bills, savings and holidays; it is easy to see how people, even the poorest, can succumb to external pressure to spend more at Christmas.

Though many of us will feel anxious about the expense associated with winter break, it’s clear from our research that there is an income dimension to people’s financial concerns. Wealthier households are far less likely to agree that they are worried about how much Christmas will cost, even though (as will be more apparent in later editions of this series) they tend to spend significantly more. Just 35% of those from households with a gross income above £50,000 agreed with the statement “I worry about how much Christmas is going to cost”, while 43% disagreed (net= -8%). Whilst more than 45% of those with a household income below £15,000 agreed, and just 31% disagreed (net= +14%).

These concerns appear to be compounded further for parents, who have the additional factor of dealing with the traditional high expectations of the season from their children. When parents were asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement “I worry whether my children will be satisfied with their gifts at Christmas” the results show a marked divergence between different income groups, with higher income groups far less likely to be worried than those at the bottom-end of the income distribution. The chart below illustrates these results.


These data above clearly suggest that the Christmas period affects Britons differently, with the poorest shouldering the brunt of the financial stress in the run-up. No doubt these concerns are in part due to family and peer expectations, but they will surely also be a consequence of the perceived inability to fulfil a ‘perfect Christmas’ within limited means.

Intriguingly, these concerns are also borne out in the shopping habits of consumers. One of the most notable finds in this round of the results are people’s views on financial planning. As you might expect, wealthier households are less likely to budget for Christmas and more likely to make sure they have everything they need. Whereas, poorer households tend to be more prudent with their money, budgeting for Christmas and only spending what they have. Accordingly, poorer households are less likely to make sure they have everything they need to enjoy the Christmas celebrations to the full. Results are detailed in the chart below.

The results discussed in this release are relatively intuitive. It is perhaps, not that surprising that low income households have limited means and spend less on Christmas as a result. But it is revealing to examine some of the evidence as to why Christmas can be a greater psychological burden on some Britons and not others.

Data tables associated with this release can be found here.

If you’d like to find out more about this research, or any other of our polls, please contact:

Michael Turner – Research Director


Follow Michael on Twitter @wonkeymike

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