Supermarkets will be using digital queueing systems, 24 hour shops , door-marshals, and incentive to shop early in a bid to offer shoppers with a social experience in what is expected to be their largest ever sales season during the Christmas period.
Government restrictions to combat coronavirus, which have slowed dining out and pub visits, British shoppers are expected to spend an unprecedented PS12bn in convenience stores and supermarkets in December. That’s around PS1.5bn more than the previous year according to analysts at Kantar.
Social distancing rules require retailers to limit the number of customers in the stores they operate at given time. This raises the possibility that the Christmas season could lead to long lines with angry patrons.
More people are likely to purchase turkey and sprouts on the internet this year, however the majority of grocery stores have delivery slots available for Christmas are already full. Despite the huge increase in delivery options this year, just 14% of the groceries are purchased online and the massive growth in sales is likely to into a greater burden on retailers.
In an effort to ward off any issues, over 300 Tesco stores will be open around all hours from the 14th of December onwards until Christmas Eve. Other stores will also be open later, opening their doors at 5am. The biggest supermarket chain in the United Kingdom has also put in an automated traffic light system throughout its stores to limit the number of customers.
The week following, Waitrose is launch a queueing app known as Qudini it will allow customers to book a time slot online. Customers can book slots at more than 100 locations to avoid queues forming during the busy shopping season.
Asda is also making use of Qudini that it has been testing since the beginning of spring. Sainsbury’s has enabled virtual queues using an alternative app that is available in certain retail stores.
Steven Hand, head of customer experience at Waitrose Steven Hand, the head of customer experience at Waitrose explained: “We’re doing all we can to help our customers make their grocery shopping as safe as simple and easy as is possible. Our slots that can be pre-booked are another way to do this and will provide peace of mind to customers who prefer to plan ahead and avoid long lines.”
The supermarkets will be open from 11pm to 23 December. On Christmas Eve, they’ll close at 6pm, however certain of the supermarket’s Little Waitrose convenience stores will remain open until midnight.
There is a “vast majority” of Sainsbury’s outlets will open for business between 6am and midnight from 21 December. Sainsbury’s is also offering customers that are members Nectar loyalty scheme with extra points to shop prior to 13 December in an effort to convince shoppers to prepare ahead.
The opening hours at the supermarkets that are late are following similar steps by homeware and fashion stores, including Marks & Spencer and Primark. From 21-23 December, Marks & Spencer will be opening its stores in two-thirds until midnight, while the remaining ones open until 10 pm.
The last-minute rush worries have already caused families to purchase festive food earlier than normal. The number of turkeys ordered in advance is up by 138% at Waitrose as a large portion of the range currently gone. The sales of turkey increased by 36% across the whole supermarket in November, according to analysts from Kantar.
The sales of fairy lights have increased by 22 percent and the baubles by 23 percent compared to the previous year on John Lewis, while B&Q was able to sell out of its Christmas lights and other ornaments two weeks before the norm.