Warwickshire's economy and 750,000,000 sprouts

The Golden Quarter,  a 90% increase in footfall, 250,000 seasonal jobs and 750,000,000 sprouts...Warwickshire County Council senior economist Sunny Parekh gives the lowdown on Chrimbo-nomics...

Ask someone what Christmas means to them and many people would describe a time for family, food and general yuletide joy... but, in the business world, many would also factor the economy in amongst the festive spirit.

Christmas means big business for most sectors across the UK and with the big day fast approaching and preparations in full swing, let's take a look at how Christmas impacts business and the economy.

Christmas shopping

For most, Christmas preparations start with shopping. A recent survey conducted by Deloitte found that shoppers in the UK are estimated to spend on average £567 this coming Christmas, up by 1.6% on 2018 – an admirable increase given the ongoing economic and political unrest.

Nothing screams Christmas quite like presents and it comes as no surprises that our love for gift-giving during the holidays will account for just over half the average estimated spend at £299 – comparatively higher than our European friends who are estimated to spend £171 of their total average spend of £407.

The festive period is certainly a gift for the UK retail sector who see it as the most lucrative time of the year for profits, with Q4 dubbed the “golden quarter” for retail. According to the Office for National Statistics, UK retail sales accounted for £110 billion in the last quarter of 2018 – 29% of the total retail sales value of the whole year (£381bn).

The peak Christmas shopping season starts for most with “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” with retailers offering eye-catching discounts in a bid to drum up sales. This year’s iteration of the American tradition has already given UK retailers a boost in sales according to Barclaycard, who find that sales volumes were up 7.1% compared with 2018, while sales value rose by 16.5%.

Christmas and the “temp job”

The festive period is especially good for those in need of a bit of extra cash as the upsurge in shopping and Christmassy activities puts immense pressure on not only the retail sector but also other linked sectors like tourism and logistics.

These sectors find themselves in need of seasonal staff to keep up with all the festive demand. There are approximately 250,000 seasonal job vacancies across the UK this Christmas, with big companies such as Amazon, Tesco and Debenhams all in need of extra pairs of hands. Warwickshire, specifically, has seen the likes of chefs and sales assistants in high demand in the past two months.

Christmas markets

The Christmas markets are a sure-fire way to get people into the festive mood with town and city centres across the UK being transformed with wooden stalls filled with festive food and drink both produced locally and from the continent.

A visit to the markets has not only become an important fixture for people in the run-up to Christmas, but also for the local economies as they boost activity, bring jobs and attract visitors to the area at a time when the visitor economy can be quiet.

According to the Local Government Association, Christmas markets across the UK generated £500m in 2017. Our very own Victorian-themed Christmas market in Stratford-upon-Avon (currently in its third successful year) saw an estimated 330 jobs created in 2017 bringing with it a 90% increase in footfall in the town on the previous year.

However, despite all the positive contributions of the markets to the economy, the BBC recently reported that Brexit has caused increased costs for the markets and the UK economy could find it harder to attract European stallholders in the future.

Christmas Day

The big day itself, unsurprisingly, is not that important in terms of the economy and is possibly the least productive day of the year in all senses of the word. The majority of large businesses are closed by law and most of us are well into the festivities to even worry about anything beyond the Christmas meal – which, according to recent reports by the BBC, could be costing us more this year.

Supply side issues such as the recent floods and wet weather have impacted crop yields for seasonal veggies. This means that the 750 million sprouts sold by supermarkets last year (according to the ONS) may be quite difficult to match this year...

Happy Christmas!


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