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The December countdown: Where are we buying our last-minute gifts?

14 December 2020 Data Insights

The run-up to Christmas is always hectic, from last-minute present buying to stocking up on Twiglets for boxing day buffets. But what are we buying in those final days or hours? And more importantly, which sectors see the most spend during the festive period?

We’ve analysed our card payment data to find out.

Last-minute turkeys: Butchers see their busiest periods two days before Christmas

Our 2019 transaction data shows that during December, butchers see the highest spend on the 23rd and 24th – with 415% and 300% increases in transactions respectively. 

So, has the trend of getting organised before the big day waned? Do we have less space in our fridge or freezer to host a turkey for two weeks?

Or is it that we’re moving away from the queues and chaos of larger supermarkets and shopping locally and less-frantically instead?

Finding time for a trim: New hairdos arrive a week before Christmas

The busiest period for our barbers and hairdressers is the last Saturday before Christmas. Paymentsense data shows that they see a 45% increase in sales that day, compared to the rest of December.

It’s likely that this figure will be even greater in 2020, with lockdown denying us of our dream locks. We predict that the November national lockdown will have impacted trading for hairdressers drastically in 2020. 

The backlog of grown-out bangs will inevitably mean that from November to December they’ll be squeezing in as many clients as possible before the big event.

Santa paws is coming to town

In December 2019, pet shops saw a massive 56% increase in footfall two days before Christmas. From squeaking turkeys to a new Christmas jumper, the UK loves to give generously to its furry friends. 

A partner for life, not just for Christmas

Specialist businesses saw a 60% increase in spend per location on this day in comparison to the average spend per location for the rest of the month.

This includes a staggering 128% increase on the 23rd December for jewellers and diamond, gold and silver specialists, compared to any other day of trading in that month. 

This suggests some impromptu proposals on Christmas Day. Or, on the flip side, that people are planning ahead for the new year, and may have bagged themselves a festive bargain.  

What can we expect from this year?

2020 has been far from ‘the norm’. Yet it’s not all doom and gloom for businesses. We’ve seen a shift towards more local and independent stores, and people are showing their support for their local butchers, bakeries, restaurants and retailers.

Consumers are still spending during the festive season, but where they can spend their cash is ultimately dictated by the virus.

Our card machine transaction data reveals that year on year data from November 2019 to December 2019, we’ve seen a yearly increase in spending across several sectors. 

Where specific industries have suffered – travel and accommodation, shoppers are shifting their spend to other areas and spending more. The sectors that have seen increased spend year-on-year are clothing retail,(3%), home furnishing (20%) and DIY and gardening (25%).  



  •  Insights are based on Paymentsense spending data for a breakdown of different industries across the whole of November and December 2019 to inform buying behaviour estimates for 2020. 
  • Percentage increases are based on ‘spend per location’. 
  • The percentage increases are derived from obtaining the average amount spent per location for December, and working out the difference between the average for that month and the busiest day throughout the Christmas period.

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