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January Sales Losing Appeal Among UK Shoppers

Pre-Christmas discounts are changing post-Christmas shopping habits

January 19, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

Widespread discounting in the run-up to Christmas is having an effect on the UK's seasonal shopping patterns, according to research by MasterCard. Post-holiday sales in particular are less tempting than they once were, with more than 90% of UK consumers surveyed by the credit card company saying they have "fallen out of love with January sales."

MasterCard polling found the pre-Christmas period has overtaken the January sales period as the preferred time for UK consumers to bag bargains. The research found 48% of shoppers purchased discounted products in the days immediately before Christmas 2016, compared to 44% doing so in the post-Christmas period that begins with Boxing Day and continues into the early weeks of the New Year.

"The January sales appear to have lost their luster for many shoppers, as sales fatigue has set in." said Mark Barnett, president of MasterCard UK and Ireland. "This situation has been heightened by pre-Christmas price cuts, together with Black Friday and Cyber Monday—they are cannibalizing the Boxing Day and January sales. By the time the New Year discounts hit the shelves, many consumers have already had their fill of bargains."

In general, MasterCard's research suggests a steady stream of discounting throughout the year is leaving UK consumers with less interest in traditional key sales periods. An overwhelming 93% of respondents said there are now so many sales during the year that traditional promotional periods like early January have lost their impact.

Moreover, the level of discount needed to trigger a purchase is growing. Nearly four in 10 shoppers (37%) polled by MasterCard said their expectation of price cuts has grown. Almost two-thirds (65%) of consumers said an item has to be reduced by more than 30% to qualify as a bargain, while more than a quarter said a discount of more than 50% was necessary to consider something a steal.

—Cliff Annicelli

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