December is the most important season of the year for retail as it increases sales and also employment in the commerce sector. Every year thousands of young people get jobs as seasonal workers. This year, however, Christmas commerce is overshadowed by the further weakening economy.

Christmas commerce increases the entire month’s retail sales by more than 25 per cent compared to the average monthly sales. The Christmas season is particularly important for the sales of books and precious items. In these product categories, Christmas doubles sales. Christmas increases the sales of electrical household appliances, toys, and gifts as well as department store sales on average by approximately 60 per cent. A successful Christmas season is essential for specialised commerce and department stores.

This year, however, Christmas sales are overshadowed by the poor economic situation of consumers and further weakening purchasing power. The Finnish Commerce Federation estimates that Christmas sales will decrease this year by 1.5 per cent compared to last year. Last year, there was a decrease of 1.7 per cent.

A successful Christmas season also impacts employment, as companies in the field of commerce hire more manpower during the Christmas season. In recent years, commerce has provided work to an average of 5,000 young people each year before Christmas. The number of working hours per wage earner has also increased by 7 per cent at the end of the year.

“The economic policy of recent years that has weakened purchasing power unfortunately affects also the Christmas commerce,” says Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation.

Almost one third of consumers make Christmas purchases online

According to a Christmas consumer survey* commissioned by the Finnish Commerce Federation, Finnish consumers are still uncertain about where they will be shopping. Almost half of respondents are still unable to say if they will make Christmas purchases online. At the moment, 30 per cent of respondents think that they are going to do Christmas shopping online.

Customers using many different shopping channels are important for Finnish commerce because they often spend more money than others. According to the survey, even more than half of the people increasing their spending this Christmas are planning to make online purchases.

However, the consumer survey shows that consumers are planning to buy Christmas purchases also from abroad more often than before. This year, slightly more than half of online shoppers will also buy from foreign online shops, whilst last year the number was 44 per cent.

Although the actual Christmas season begins in stores around the tax refund day and Finland’s Independence Day, people start to search for information about gifts already in October. According to Google’s internal statistics, searches related to fashion and cosmetics are most common in October-November. Whereas November-December is the period for searches related to books. In December, information about toys is sought. Recipes and tips for setting the Christmas table, in particular, are sought with mobile devices.

*The consumer survey was carried out in October by TNS Gallup through an Internet-assisted survey reaching 2,848 Finns aged 15 or older.

For further information, please contact:

Jaana Kurjenoja, Chief Economist of the Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)9 1728 5134, jaana.kurjenoja(at)kauppa.fi

The Finnish Commerce Federation represents commerce – the largest sector of the national economy. Commerce employs around 300,000 persons in Finland. The Federation has around 7,000 member companies and represents both retail and wholesale commerce in industry policy and labour market lobbying. www.kauppa.fi