How Mums are feeling about Christmas spending

Most UK mums have been budgeting all year; but will this remain the case for Christmas? IPC Advertising’s director of insight Amanda Wigginton explores.


Mums see Christmas as the top occasion to spend quality time together as a family. So despite financial pressures, many refuse to cut back at this time of year.

To get a real understanding of how mums are approaching Christmas 2010, IPC set up Christmas Live, an online community of 25 mums who we’ve been talking to every week since September about all things related to Christmas.

We’ve discovered that ’not cutting back’ doesn’t mean mums aren’t thinking carefully about what they spend. The expense of Christmas has always been a strain on mass market families and the majority feel it’s becoming more and more expensive. However, the previous approach of many to buy now, worry later, isn’t one they’re taking today.

The key aim is to make savings while still achieving value. But this doesn’t mean looking for cheap products, especially at Christmas, a time when mums have always allowed themselves to splash out or trade up.

Value for mums means finding the product that gives the best return on what she’s spent: it could make her life easier, give her a family experience to remember, pick her up, provide her with added value and benefits, or entertain her. With this in mind, it’s more important than ever for brands to highlight both the emotional and rational benefits they offer.

Mums have a ’flexible wallet’ and will protect the purchases that are important to them -while they’ll still treat their children, it could be their partners that lose out.

This is summed up by Sara, one of the mums in our Christmas Live community: “Christmas is for children so as long as they get everything their heart desires that’s more than enough for us – we’ll just buy each other something little then buy something for the home between us as our main gift.”

So how are mums protecting their key purchases this Christmas? IPC’s Christmas Live research has identified 12 key “Self Conscious Shopper” behaviours at work…

1. Starting shopping even earlier than usual

2. Prioritising the children’s gifts

3. Making lists and setting budgets

4. Shopping around – “I’ve shopped around a lot more this year,” says Claire from Twickenham

5. Buying more from supermarkets – “I’m buying quite a lot this year from supermarkets, such as main presents and smaller stocking fillers. The range and quality seems so much better than it was, plus I’m there every week so it’s easy to pop something in the trolley – it spreads the cost and earns me points,” explains Emma from Wigan.

6. Stocking up on offers

7. Researching and purchasing more online – “I find online shopping so convenient and do price comparison searches,” claims Paula from Hinckley.

8. Saving points and using vouchers

9. Interrogating value – “I’ve bought some smellies separately, not in a packaged box as the items were actually cheaper that way,” says Mary from York.

10. Pre-planning meals

11. Avoiding wastage – “I’ll be planning the food more carefully so that I don’t waste any. I’ll still buy some special treats,” notes Christine from Hartlepool.

12. Paying more attention to media and advertising

Clearly the Self Conscious Shopper has not taken a Christmas break, which brands should remember when targeting mums in the run up to the big day and beyond.

Ultimately mums are still prepared to spend, as they want a quality family Christmas – they just won’t be spending mindlessly. They’ll be looking to save time, save money, make sure the kids have the best Christmas (never underestimate how important this is) or looking for ways to provide experiences and memories to treasure.

The real winners this year will be the brands that tap into mum’s emotional and rational purchasing mindsets – the brands that prove they’re worth the money, and pass the Self Conscious Shopper’s test.

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