So that’s all clear then. There will be Five Days of Christmas. (And on the sixth my true love will send… me packing for fear of being arrested.) Replacing the accursed Rule of Six, Three Households will be able to Bear Gifts and Travel Afar. Christmas is coming, but the turkeys are on a diet. So here it is, Mini Christmas!
How any retailer is supposed to plan under these mad, changeable circumstances is anyone’s guess. How many of the five days will these three household parties stay together? How many will pay any attention to the rules? For all the clarity the government has sought to bring, there are still so many questions, and variables, with the constantly changing regional tiers and national variances a nightmare when it comes to planning – though better this uncertainty than the news for hospitality, which is as crystal as it is brutal.
Some supermarkets have reported an increase in early sales of Christmas goods and brought forward promotions on festive lines. Whether that’s due to boredom, fears of shortages, or a desire to avoid the Covid-infested Christmas crush in store, at least one thing is already clear: with 39% of shoppers wanting to do their Christmas shop online, there won’t be enough delivery slots to meet the demand.
Other relatively easy predictions to make include lower party food sales, less big birds, other joints, more vegan Christmas options – and orange seems to be flavour of the month. But there’s still a lot of guesswork for retailers, and no doubt a lot of waste, alongside shortages. Not to mention there will be just 23 shopping days left to get this crucial period right once we’re out of lockdown, with all the usual uncertainties to manage, including the good old British weather. (There have been predictions of the coldest winter for years which surely is a given considering the luck we’ve had in 2020.)
Still, this week’s developments offer crucial new information, and the winners will be those who’ve taken the best educated guesses in advance, but also respond quickly to new information.
And spare a thought for shoppers: alongside confusion and exasperation at the rules and changes, there will be some heart-breaking choices as non-bubble families are left in the cold; we know poverty is going to be a real concern as job losses mount; and what about those shielding? We now know visits from elderly care homes are a no-no. But the situation for the vulnerable and elderly is one of further isolation.