John Lewis steals a march by opening Christmas shop early

Surge in demand prompts chain to start online sales 10 days earlier than last year

John Lewis is opening its Christmas shop earlier than ever after it found that searches for festive products had nearly quadrupled compared with last year.

The retailer said the online store, selling lights, trees and hampers, opened on Monday lunchtime, 10 days ahead of last year, as shoppers bored by weeks of lockdown were already thinking about how to decorate their homes in December.

Jason Billings-Cray, John Lewis’s Christmas buyer, said: “Christmas always provides a reason for celebration and a welcome break. Understandably, it looks as if people are looking forward to and planning for it earlier than ever this year.

“Christmas celebrations mostly take place in our homes and we have seen how the lockdown has made people think more about their homes, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that people are already thinking about how they will decorate their homes this Christmas.”

The most searched-for products on the John Lewis site are Christmas trees, baubles, cards, lights and wrapping paper. Animal baubles are expected to be the most popular this year, with peacocks, squirrels and toucans in favour.

John Lewis’s sister supermarket chain, Waitrose, has also seen an increase in Christmas searches – up 42% on last July and August. It has recorded a 400% rise in searches for mincemeat as families struck by the home baking trend consider making their own mince pies, while Christmas pudding sales are up 75% and searches for mince pies are up by more than 110%.

Festive products will not appear on John Lewis’s shelves until 25 September, but mince pies and other festive treats will be on Waitrose shelves on 10 September, about the same time as usual.

The department store’s online shop has stolen a march on London department store Liberty and the Selfridges chain, both of which are yet to open their Christmas shops. However, those stores are likely to be the first to kick Christmas off on the high street.

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Liberty will open its Christmas shop at its central London store in about 10 days, slightly later than usual because of hold-ups related to the pandemic, while Selfridges has delayed its Christmas shop, which is usually opens in August, until next month as it focuses on its environment-inspired Project Earth event.

Marks & Spencer will be kicking off its Christmas sales at the end of September online and early October in stores. That is in line with last year, when the company shifted earlier in response to changing customer habits.

One industry insider said John Lewis was likely to be launching its Christmas products early because it would have ordered stock a year ago, before coronavirus hit and when the outlook for trading would have been very different.

Contributor

Sarah Butler

The GuardianTramp

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