Package night stays package night

Nearly half of the Dutch celebrate Saint Nicholas. Within the guidelines and preferably as 'normal' as possible. That is good news for the retail sector. Especially retailers in food, gifts, puzzles and games will get busy in December. It is striking that the crowds will not only be online. This week's Consumer Behaviour Monitor shows that shops and shopping streets will also be busier in the coming weeks. The holidays are seen by consumers as a justification to go out for a while, it seems.

Sinterklaas is back in the country! This brings the always festive, cozy and busy December month really close. But how cozy will it be this year if we can only celebrate the holidays in small company? Package evening should be celebrated within the rules of the partial lockdown. The Cabinet has not yet spoken about Christmas this week, but it is clear that it will look different this year as well. Not everyone is happy about that. More and more Dutch people want a relaxation of the rules for the number of visitors you can receive at home. 

Maybe follow a good example? Sinterklaas may have set the tone with his corona proof entry. Almost half of the Dutch people (46%) say they are going to celebrate Sinterklaas and most of them say they follow the guidelines. For 20% this is no problem at all: they say they can celebrate Sinterklaas the way they used to. About 7% are still looking for ways to celebrate Sinterklaas corona proof, such as online with family and friends.

Not a wonderful evening at uncertain work situation
Approximately 10% of the people who normally celebrate parcel nights say they won't do it this year. This is more true for Dutch people with an uncertain work situation. 18% of them will not celebrate a parcel evening this year, while they would normally do so. Their uncertain financial situation seems to play a part in this. Almost half of this group of consumers are still worried about their finances and their work situation. Fewer and fewer people in this group have any money left over to put aside and more and more spend their income mainly on basic necessities such as food. This is in contrast to consumers with a permanent job: they have more money left over and spend it more often on fun things.

Hustleand bustle online and in stores
In the run-up to the holiday season, several e-tailers called on consumers to order gifts on time. The expectation that the webshops will be very busy in the coming weeks is clearly confirmed. Since the start of the corona crisis, an average of a quarter of consumers have already spent more time shopping online. Because of Sinterklaas, this share may well increase considerably. More than 40% of consumers indicate to orient themselves online on Sinterklaas gifts and to order them online as much as possible. Nevertheless, physical stores can also prepare themselves for a busy period. For a relatively large group of people, the holiday season seems to be a justification for going out for a while. 44% of Sinterklaas celebrants go to the store for one reason or another. Especially people over 55 like to browse around in a physical store.

Mandy Merks, Insights Consultant at Validators: "We know from psychology that people tend to justify their behavior. It's not surprising that the oldest group seems to use the holidays to go out anyway, since they can probably justify for themselves that they have adhered well to the measures from the beginning".

Points of light for retail, light remains out in the hotel and catering industry
For the retail sector, the outlook for the December month is therefore cautiously positive. Consumer spending on gifts and food and drink in the Consumer Behaviour Monitor remains at the same level as in recent months. Moreover, a small part of the Dutch population expects to spend more on gifts and food and drink for package nights than in other years.

Gijs de Beus, strategist at Friends & Foes: "It is quite remarkable that no more brands are communicating around Sinterklaas. With the exception of a number of - usually somewhat larger - retailers and e-tailers. Even though they have the wind in their sails anyway. Undoubtedly, after Sinterklaas, the Christmas commercials can't be won again. But with a message about this typical Dutch party you could have put yourself as a brand a bit more distinctive in the shop window".

Also for manufacturers of puzzles and games and providers of online games remain the golden age. On average, about a quarter of consumers spend more on this than they did before the corona crisis.

Rob Revet, brand strategist at FNDMNTL and member expert panel: "The jigsaw puzzle is making a comeback and store stocks are running out. People need pastime and are more at home. Nostalgic feelings probably also play a role. A brand like Chicken Tonight is also responding to this in its brand campaign. The relevance of this may prove to be short-lived. After corona, the world largely looks the same as before corona.

Circumstances remain very difficult for the hospitality industry. Now that restaurants and cafes are closed due to the partial lockdown, they remain dependent on ordering and picking up meals. The only bright spot here is that the number of people ordering food online remains stable and is significantly higher than before the outbreak of the pandemic. Consumers therefore continue to order and collect. If the partial lockdown continues during the holidays, this will raise many questions about the creativity of hospitality entrepreneurs. Possibly, with drinks boxes for St. Nicholas or New Year's Eve and boxes for Christmas breakfast, Christmas brunch or Christmas dinner, something of the December month can still be made.

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