Big Freeze prompts flurry of festive gift buying online

Widespread snow and sub-zero temperatures across the UK prompted an early flurry of online festive gift buying, with searches around 'Christmas gifts' up 12% week-on-week*, according to data from Summit, specialists in online retailing.

Insight from Summit, using data from over ten years of peak trading and based on millions of digital searches, shows a spike in online searches for Christmas gifts as the snow settled, demonstrating the significant impact of weather on demand.

Martin Corcoran, Head of Insight at Summit, said: "Whilst the heavy snow earlier this week brought transport headaches and school closures for many, it may have delivered retailers an early Christmas present. With snowy 'Christmas card' scenes up and down the country, it clearly got shoppers into the festive mood and turned their thoughts to preparing for the big day, prompting a 12% week-on-week increase in searches for Christmas gifts online."

From a logistical perspective, Corcoran suggests this surge in online demand for Christmas gifts might also be attributed to snowed-in shoppers not being able to get onto the High Street, with footfall reportedly down 22% year-on-year** on Sunday (10 December) when the snow fell.

Corcoran continued: "The last time we saw such a marked impact of snow on Christmas buying behaviours was back in 2014, when there was widespread snowfall on 7 December – this caused a surge in demand for online searches for Christmas gifting in the first week of December, up 10% week-on-week, and then a decline the following week, down 15% comparatively."

As well as prompting a surge in Christmas gifting searches online, it seems the advent of snowfall also boosts demand for winter related products. With heavy snow covering 50% of the country, as with earlier this week, online searches for sledges typically rise by 149% and demand for snow tyres double, whilst those googling for crampons also increases by 47%. Demand for electric blankets typically hit later, with search terms for this product rising 32% the day following the snowfall.

Corcoran concluded: "There's no denying that the weather can significantly impact demand across a retailer's operations – and it doesn't have to be something as dramatic as significant snowfall. We know, for instance, that search for Electric blankets grows by up to 5-6% for every 1 degree decrease in temperature. By mapping digital demand and using predictive analytic capabilities, retailers can make sure they use weather variations to their advantage, either turning on online marketing spend across peaking categories or diverting spend on declining products accordingly."

* w/c 04.12.17 vs w/c 11.12.17
** Retail Week, 2017

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