Stressed shoppers urge retailers to help ease festive frustrations, finds Barclaycard

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With the Christmas shopping season in full swing, new research from Barclaycard has revealed that stressed shoppers are appealing to retailers to urgently enhance the shopping experience in the busy festive period or risk losing out on sales both now and in the future.

The study found that the vast majority of Brits (72%) get stressed while Christmas shopping, with the figure rising to 80 per cent for women. With consumers increasingly used to comfort and convenience, however, they are no longer prepared to accept frustrations like long queues and overcrowding as simply an inescapable drawback of the season. More than six in ten people (63%) say that retailers should do more to relieve shopping stresses during the festive period.

Retailers who fail to act could risk losing crucial sales both now – in the weeks leading up to Christmas – and in the future.  Busy Brits confess to abandoning in-store (34%) or online purchases (28%) if they experience poor service, with a further 57% saying they’re less likely to shop with the brand in the future if they’re stressed out at Christmas time.

Strained Christmas shoppers cite a number of different irritations. In addition to perennial gripes about large crowds (46%), long queues at checkout and fitting rooms (33%) and items being out of stock (26%) – which are exacerbated during the busy holiday period – other winter woes include carrying heavy bags (25%), being too hot in-store (24%) or having to lug their coat around (14%). A third (33%) also say that struggling to come up with gift ideas for those who are notoriously hard to buy for, such as in-laws and managers, adds to their festive frustrations.

With just under three weeks to go until Christmas, however, retailers still have time to make amends. Over a third of consumers (35%) say extending opening hours would prove helpful, while 28% think free seasonal snacks or drinks would be a ‘sweetener’. Nearly a quarter (23%) of shoppers would like a free of charge cloakroom service where they can drop-off their coat and bags (this figure increases to 31% for women). Fifteen per cent would welcome gift ideas grouped together, for example ‘gifts for mum or mum-in-law’, and one in 10 (11%) would value the introduction of an in-store ‘de-stress’ area with fun distractions such as cute puppies to help offer some light relief.

For those buying online, slow loading websites are a big irritation for some (18%), as are websites that aren’t suitable for navigating on a mobile device (7%). In terms of a Christmas wish list, consumers have put both ‘click and collect’ and the ability to check stock availability online before visiting a store firmly near the top (35% each).  In addition, almost a quarter (24%) want the ability to buy in-store and have items delivered directly to a location of their choosing.

The businesses that do get it right this Christmas will reap the rewards. Nearly three-quarters (71%) say that if a retailer offers them a great way to relieve some of the Christmas shopping stress, they’re more likely to shop with them again.                 

Sharon Manikon, customer solutions director at Barclaycard, said: “Christmas is a really hectic time for everyone – retailers as well as consumers. Just because it’s extra busy, though, doesn’t mean that consumers should be resigned to poor service – whether buying online or in-store. In fact, many shoppers have said that if they suffer frustrations at the hands of a brand, they may not return, having ramifications for the business’s bottom line.

“The good news for retailers is that it’s not always the costly things that consumers are calling for.  Stressed shoppers have told us it’s the relatively small things like a pick-me-up in store or a cloakroom service that will make a big difference.  If merchants – no matter what their size or capability – can introduce some of these measures to ‘de-stress Christmas’, it will  help ensure consumers return again and again, long after the decorations have come down.”