Letter from the editors

Christmas trees and twinkling lights have been appearing in their hundreds. Never before* has November seen such an outpouring of Christmas spirit; giant spruces, wagon wheel wreaths and technicolour front yard totems of Old St Nick.

Christmas 2020 occupies a different place in our collective consciousness – from its fetishisation by the government at the expense of other religious festivals, to the time we’ve had this year to reassess how – and where – we spend our money. We’ve focused minds and wallets, looking for the greater good by reducing unnecessary spending and consumption and increasing the impact of our personal pound.


Affiliate network Awin has been probing our buying intentions, and sent us some research which says that more than half (54%) of us are planning to support local businesses by buying Christmas presents from our home regions this year. More than four in five of us have started our shopping earlier than usual – mostly because we fear shortages (28%) in this strangest of years.


And – having spent much of 2020 sitting in meetings on Zoom and helping friends and family organise grocery deliveries – 62% of us are planning to shop online, compared with just 39% who purchased presents online last year. Nearly of fifth (19%) are first-time online shoppers.


It’s a good time to think about retail. In a year when we’ve been locked down, encouraged to ‘eat out to help out’ and compelled to buy local, shop social and think differently, which of those trends will stick? Will we swerve shops and buy online; or are we heading for town and city centres to support the independents that have sustained us?


And what does that mean for our communities? As 2020 has given more people more confidence in an online world, will this year’s challenges change the face of the places we live? Retail is part of the fabric of our towns and cities – the places that give shape and a face to our lives.


So we talk to retail analysts and high street stalwarts; we think about consumption and our carbon footprint and the social element of shopping. These decisions could have profound effects. As 2020 draws to a close, we look at the consequences – intended and otherwise – of a year like no other we’ve known.




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