Reflections on 2022 retail and Christmas trends

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Close-up of Christmas tree with lights and hanging decorations

By Dr Sarah Montano and Dr Inci Toral
Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham

In conclusion, as always retail is a challenge and is always changing but retail is an important part of our lives and our communities. What will 2023 bring?

As we get towards the end of the year, it is timely to reflect on consumption this year, the key trends, and what we can expect for Christmas 2022.

Firstly, let’s have a look at what consumers have been buying this year

The cost-of-living crisis has been influential in driving product decision making this year. Have you bought any of these most popular items?

  • As consumers look to save on energy costs, one of the most on-trend items this year is an air fryer, with sales increasing by a massive 3,000%.
  • Heated throws and blankets have also seen a significant increase in sales of about 500% as customers seek to keep warm without turning on their heating.
  • On the theme of keeping warm – the onesie is back in fashion as sales of onesie and oodies (hooded blankets) have soared.

Secondly, where and how have consumers been buying this year?

This year we have seen a substantial decline in online sales, to a low of 24.6% of all retail sales in August 2022 from a peak of 37.8% in January 2021. It has become clear, that as we emerge from the pandemic, consumers have been keen to get back to shopping in person!

This year our high streets, shopping malls and retail parks have been much busier, with Black Friday footfall up 9.2% on 2021. Why have customers gone back to shopping in person? The main reason is that in-person shopping offers something that you cannot get online. Whilst online is important for product and quick transactions, made easy by one-click ordering, visiting a shopping centre or high-street allows us to go for a coffee, meet great independent retailers, get a personalised service and socialise, all of which we have been very much missed over the last two years. Of course it is possible to combine both, as Gymshark are doing with their Rest Day Lounge, where you can get a manicure after a product purchase! Today, shopping is more complex as customers bounce between in-person and online shopping, sometimes with the same brand.

Sadly, we have seen some of our favourite retailers face very difficult times, with Joules, M&Co and all entering administration. The recent BBC High Street report shows just how much customers want an experience rather than a product. The BBC shows that even though there are 9,300 fewer retail outlets since March 2020, there has been a 5.7% increase in cafes, a 5.9% in hair and beauty service and a surprising 8.2% increase in tattoo and piercing studios. We can see from this data customers are looking for something personal or social, and you can’t get that online!

Another key trend around where customers have been shopping is in second-hand shops and via apps such as Vinted. With multiple concerns such as the cost-of-living crisis and the environment, customers are turning to second-hand shopping as a way to still buy clothes but at a lower price and without the fast fashion impact. Second-hand stores saw a growth of 27.2% in 2021.

Finally, what will be the trends of Christmas 2022?

Once again, we have seen self-gifting and advent calendars being a key trend. At the luxury end of the market, we have seen for example, Selfridges, Cult Beauty and Liberty’s all offering highly desirable beauty advent calendars. This has been a trend that has increased over the last few years as customers want to treat themselves in the busy run up to Christmas. Food trends that we will see this Christmas will be an increase in vegan goods as sales have increased this year – this is a continuing trend. It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Christmas dinner and supermarkets are competing to offer the lowest prices with “Veg Wars” taking place as supermarkets compete on price. Finally, how consumers plate up party food this year will be influenced by TikTok – a key trend is presented as a charcuterie board with 1.2 billion views!

In conclusion, as always retail is a challenge and is always changing but retail is an important part of our lives and our communities. What will 2023 bring? We will have to see!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Birmingham.

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