Most retailers will have already even started to plan their Christmas and New Year campaigns. So, what can we learn from last year and what should we expect?

Looking back, considering the low levels of consumer confidence going into the festive period last year the results showed a reasonably good Christmas for retail with considerably more winners than losers.

This was facilitated by timing, with the lucrative Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday. The weather also helped most of the high street retailers and Christmas Day reported as the hottest in 90 years, which is a stark contrast to the snow and freeze of 2010. But, with many retailers offering deeper discounts earlier, we have to ask at what cost to margin, although without a doubt there were many happy shoppers.

There were some clear trends – grocery showed growth and all of the key players in the perfume sector showed significant growth, which shows that our love affair with branded value continues. And the brands that competed head to head with Amazon continued to lose that battle, despite significant investment in the shopper experience.

We know from the BRC that while pre-Xmas retail sales hiked 2.2% it was quickly followed by gloomier news when January like-for-like sales fell 0.3%.

As night follows day for many retailers and their agency partners, winter 2012 planning, if not upon us, is not too far away. So, when you’re formulating plans for this year’s Christmas campaigns, what should you consider? As with all things in retail, its the detail that matters – so here’s 5 things to reflect upon.

1. Some of the online retailers started their online sales at 4pm Christmas eve – reshaping the timing of their campaign. Can you take advantage of these extra trading hours?
2. Boxing day was the busiest shopping day of 2011. Experian reported a 20% increase YOY. Does your digital and social activity support this?
3. Hold you’re nerve – last minute shopping still plays a part in many shoppers’ Christmas ritual.
4. According to a TolunaQuick survey 23% of shoppers were ‘bored of the January sales, as there are sales through-out the year anyway’. How can you re-engage with your shoppers to make the 2012 sale more appealing?
5. It goes without saying – but weather still has a fundamental part to play in how people shop. Create deployable contingency plans to take account of weather changes.

By Sue Benson