New research suggests the retail multiples have a lot to play for in the run up to Christmas with a third of shoppers saying they remain undecided as to where they will do their main Christmas food shopping.

The Bridgethorne Shopper Index, which is produced quarterly by shopper and category management specialist Bridgethorne, found that younger shoppers seem happiest to leave the decision about where to buy their Christmas groceries until later in the season. Just 54% of those at the pre-family stage say they have decided already, compared with 81% of retired people, 67% of those with families and 64% of empty nesters.

The Index also found that shoppers would prefer to purchase some of their groceries several weeks before Christmas (circa 70%) to spread the cost and ease the shopping burden, although the reality is that they tend to leave the shopping until later in the season, with 42% leaving it to the last week, of which 12% leave it to the ‘last minute’. When asked which products they would consider buying early, alcohol (43.6%); food cupboard items (34.8%); snacks, biscuits and confectionary (33.6%), and frozen foods (33.6%) were the items most frequently mentioned.

“The conundrum of bringing forward Christmas food shopping still exists; sometimes it is delayed for practical reasons, such as with fresh items, though the Index suggests that there are definitely products that shoppers would be more pre-disposed to shop for early,” says John Nevens, Joint Managing Director, Bridgethorne. “The challenge is to find mechanisms to draw these customers in earlier in the season.”

Respondents were also questioned on retailers’ Christmas television advertising. Although the survey was conducted in mid-November, a large proportion of respondents (79%) claimed to have seen some Christmas advertising. 78% of the 18-34 age group said they had seen advertising but this age group were less likely to commit to a particular retailer, reinforcing the view that this age group could be a prime target, particularly as they seem to be pre-disposed towards and aware of this year’s Christmas advertising.

Although only a small proportion of those surveyed said they would change their shopping behaviour as a result of the advertising, this tended to be within the younger demographic groups: of the 12% of respondents who said they had changed their minds based on Christmas advertising, a quarter were in the 18-34 age group.

“The fact that the majority of shoppers plan to remain loyal to the retailer they shop with all year round shows that shopping habits are hard to break even at Christmas,” adds Nevens.

“This will provide comfort to retailers and manufacturers alike who know they can adopt a more consistent planning process in the run up to Christmas and encourage incremental purchases to encourage seasonal growth.”

The Bridgethorne Shopper Index is a quarterly survey of shopper opinions from shopper and category management specialists Bridgethorne, that gauges satisfaction, loyalty and future propensity to purchase.