The Christmas Shopping Experience: 2020 Style

The Christmas Shopping Experience: 2020 Style

Shop ‘Til You Drop – Christmas Edition

Despite the bright light displays and festive decorations, most of the time Christmas shopping isn’t as idyllic as we hope. We all know how Christmas shopping creates madness and havoc every year as people flock to the streets on the hunt for the perfect gift. Whether you’re the calm and collected type who always has a list to hand or the type to start your Christmas shopping in the days leading up to Christmas (or the day before). Never the less, this time of year is usually characterised by overwhelming crowds and people queued out of the shop doors.

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Despite how much we try to avoid it, last minute Christmas shopping is inevitable. We always find ourselves running to get finishing touches and according to Mintel, 76% of people in the UK continue to make purchases right up until Christmas. Despite all the stress, UK consumers love Christmas shopping! In reality, our arms are heavy from dragging around shopping bags and it’s never a successful Christmas shop unless you come home completely exhausted. However, our Christmas shopping experience will be very different this year.

Expectation vs Reality…

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Keep Calm, Christmas is Coming

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and according to Mintel, 77% of consumers believe that it’s more important than ever to have a good Christmas this year to make up for the events of 2020. This increases the pressure to give the perfect gift this year.

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The announcement that restrictions will continue until 11th December means that many consumers will opt to shop online. However, the potential reopening of stores may promote a Christmas rush, which is dangerous for consumers and retailers. Postal services have slowed down during the pandemic, which creates issues for last minute shopping. To add to this, during Christmas, postal delivery times are often unreliable, which may urge consumers to take to the shops in the run up to Christmas. Consumers who don’t use technology will also suffer as they’re not familiar with or don’t have access to online shopping.

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How to Avoid The Nightmare Before Christmas

There’s something about the obligatory shopping trip to Belfast at Christmas that unleashes your Christmas spirit. Walking around the shops and seeing the Christmas displays, decorations and lights that just adds to the Christmas build up. You also cannot forget to pick up a sweet treat and hot drink (or something a little stronger) from The Christmas Markets. However, shoppers are urged to shop early this Christmas to avoid the Christmas rush and increased COVID19 cases.

Many shoppers usually opt to shop in-store to benefit from professional help as experienced staff are on hand to give advice. This is a feature that online stores cannot fully replicate. Help from a sales advisor makes choosing a gift easier and is less overwhelming, compared to the wide amount of choice available online. Another advantage of shopping in-store is that consumers are able to feel and test the quality of products. This is important for gift shopping as consumers want to see the product before they buy to prevent unnecessary returns. Security online during the Christmas period is particularly important as scammers try to take advantage of consumers.

To avoid any mishaps, it’s important to be prepared this year. By shopping online, we can shop at our own convenience, from the comfort of our homes and avoid long queues. Primark in Belfast has been criticised for crowds gathered outside, before further COVID19 restrictions are introduced. Online shopping prevents this, whilst providing a safe platform for consumers during the pandemic. Consumers can save money in the run up to Christmas by shopping online as it’s easier to compare prices. Online retailers also offer discounts and sales which aren’t available in-store. By shopping from a department store like Debenhams, consumers can purchase all their gifts from the same place, saving on delivery costs. If you’re a Christmas procrastinator, then click and collect services are perfect for you! They limit the time spent in-store whilst still receiving your gifts in time for Christmas.  

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Save Time and Money – Splash the Cash on Black Friday

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If you’re shopping online this Christmas, it’s useful to get involved in big sale events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They’re a great way to avoid the Christmas rush whilst getting guaranteed Christmas delivery. The US tradition has become increasingly popular within the UK in the last 10 years, and is continuing to grow each year. According to Mintel, 70% of Black Friday shoppers use the event to purchase their Christmas presents.

Shop Local This Christmas

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We tend to shop at large chains for convenience reasons however, they’ve benefited from the pandemic unlike small local businesses. There’s been an emphasis on social media to shop local this Christmas by supporting local retailers. Small businesses often make personalised, hand-made gifts that come from the heart, with extensive time and effort put into making the gift. Why not create a gift hamper, filled with products from local businesses. You can create a unique gift that’s heartfelt and has an extra personal touch. Christmas is known as a time of giving back, so by shopping local, you can help small businesses to survive, whilst supporting your local community and creating jobs.

Support Local NI has been set up to encourage NI consumers to shop locally. Click here, to view their gift guide which is useful to find exactly what you’re looking for.

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Lauren Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Linkedin.

Fatima already is a highly skilled woman??? Dear Government, she doesn’t need to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot”

Fatima already is a highly skilled woman??? Dear Government, she doesn’t need to “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot”
The government's attitude to Fatima and the arts will put them on the wrong  side of history – they just don't know it yet | The Independent

What even is normal anymore?

We all miss the normality of our pre-pandemic lives, things we never imagined not being able to do. Like going to a nightclub, letting your ‘hair down’ dancing the night away to your favourite songs with your friends. Going to events, saving money for ages so you can see your favourite artist at a festival or concert. Always having something to look forward to! Despite not being able to attend events, I think throughout lockdown I’ve watched my fair share of Netflix (or far too much) and turned to Spotify to keep me sane.  

Limelight Belfast - Live Music
LimeLight before COVID-19
How LimeLight operate now
Have your say on our creative industries! - Causeway Coast & Glens Borough  Council

“Without the arts, our lives are impoverished.” – Ian Rankin

ONS have recorded that “Since lockdown in March, 82% of arts, entertainment and recreation businesses reported closure or a pause in trading activities.” The creative industries have been massively affected by Coronavirus with little Government intervention and support. This is so frustrating to see as in 2018 these industries contributed £110 billion to the UK economy and employed 3.2 million people. When you think about all the different jobs involved in creative industries, it’s hard to picture how many people are affected! If The Government do not give the correct support, we could lose this amazing industry.

This represents 1/3 of how many people are affected in the industry

This community is known for their extreme skills, talents and creativity and pave the way for us to entertain and express ourselves. Due to a lack of support, various movements were created on social media for financial support. In particular, the hashtags #SaveTheArts and #SaveTheArtsUk have over 125,000 posts on Instagram.

So far… it’s not looking too good on The Governments behalf…

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The Lyric Theatre in Belfast supporting the campaign

The ‘Context’ of the campaign…

The resurfacing of a 2019 Government backed campaign by Cyber First has been greeted with widespread backlash on the Internet. Originally, it was released as a long-running campaign to promote cyber security jobs within young people. Although the campaign used a variety of images showing people from different career backgrounds, the slogan “Rethink. Reskill, Reboot” created implications with one particular image. This campaign was released in 2019 so continuing to run this campaign during the pandemic has been called extremely careless.

Following an interview with Rishi Sunak the campaign recirculated online. He stated that people who are unable to work should “adapt” their job prospects and be open to “new opportunities.” It’s believed that he aimed this speech towards people in the creative industries, which is extremely sensitive for those facing extreme financial difficulties. Sunak has ultimately denied this claim however, the creative communities are tired of being disrespected.

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The heart of the campaign backlash comes from one image in particular, ‘Fatima’ a ballet dancer. This image was taken out of context due to the existing problems faced by creative people, making this a PR disaster for The Government. Due to this being a long running campaign, it gives the impression that the Government have always dismissed the skills and hard work in this industry.

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DANCE FATIMA. DANCE!

This image has become extremely controversial on the Internet and is highly problematic for The Government’s image. It suggests that women who have worked tirelessly to become professional dancers should ‘by the click of a button’ switch to a career in Cyber. The Government should be supporting and encouraging these people instead of having the attitude that retraining is the only solution! On average, it takes at least 9 years to become a professional dancer. Therefore, The Government have been criticised for having no regard for their excessive hard work, determination and talent.

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‘Cyber First Campaign’ – 118,000,000 search results…

The ballet dancer image has been very popular throughout social media. #Fatima trended on twitter, with a variety of opinions, mockery and frustration by many users. Political figures have been mocked in a series of memes suggesting that they should also “retrain” like Fatima.

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One post by @penleeparktheatre has really stood out on Instagram. The theatre have shown how ironic it is that without the use of a creative team, the campaign would never exist. The backlash by social media users has shown that this campaign is completely “tone deaf”, tasteless and insulting.

Sean Coleman on Twitter: "#SaveTheArtsUK… "
The irony of it all…

In reaction to the campaign, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has distanced himself and his department from it, calling it “Crass”. A spokesperson for the Prime Minister has said the content of the campaign image was “not appropriate” and has now been removed. Although the campaign aimed to encourage “people from all walks of life to think about a career in cyber-security.”

Oliver Dowden apologises for 'crass' ballerina retraining advert | Daily  Mail Online

Despite The Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund programme, so far it has been largely unallocated and will not be enough to save every job. However, the announcement of £257 million funding towards museums, theatres and cultural organisations is a step in the right direction. To date, there has been no support towards freelancers who are continuing to struggle every day and overall the creative community feel the campaign has proven that The Government don’t care about the them.

How can we help #SaveTheArts

Follow these campaigns:

We Make Events NI

Save the Arts UK

Sign petitions:

Funding for the UK arts sector and freelance creatives

Financial support for the events and hospitality sector

Support to the Arts (particularly Theatres and Music)

The Artwork Archive have a great article on how to support The Arts during COVID-19. Check it out!

These small acts can contribute towards helping the creative industries to stay on their feet until they can make a comeback.

Lauren Campbell is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram: lauren_campbell656 and Linkedin: Lauren Campbell.