Dare I say it, and it’s on the lips of everyone, but Christmas 2016 is only around the corner and before you know it, we will have the tunes of “Hark the Herald Sing” and “Slade” ringing in our ears reminding us of the impending big day!!  And, if predictions from the retail sector are true, this could be a better year than 2015 for consumer spending.

According to some reports from industry experts, the Christmas outlook for 2016 is uncertain. Confidence is high, unemployment is falling and real incomes are growing; Christmas 2016 should be a reasonable year for retailers but it will not be easy.

How much will consumers spend in the run-up to Christmas 2016?

Industry experts are predicting UK retail sales are forecast to grow 3.3% to £47 billion, showing shopper demand is holding up well. However, behind the joyous headlines there are a couple of important factors to consider.

Intense market competition is driving down retail prices, meaning many retail businesses in some cases will have to sell more stock to surpass 2015’s profit margins.

Secondly, the annual event ‘Black Friday’ showed a heavy tilt towards online spending – and The Telegraph predicts that 4 in 5 consumers will turn to a website for their festive purchases in 2016. This increases the challenge for traditional high street stores, encouraging customers away from the comfort of their sofa. Whether you are a sole trader or a recognised retail brand, it is imperative to capture as many potential customers as possible.

Small Business owners saving the discounts for Christmas 2016

Christmas is traditionally the peak time of the year for high street shops or online retailers to offer promotion and discounts.

A recent poll suggested the most common promotions that business owners adopt during the festive season are ‘purchase offers’ i.e. 2 for 1 (38 per cent), giveaway (26 per cent) and ‘discount vouchers’ (36 per cent).

The individuals who participated were happy to run discounts and promotions throughout the calendar year, regardless of season, and were asked why they were happy to do so. The general consensus and most over whelming responses were “it’s a great way to keep customers happy; both old and new” (52 per cent) and “it encourages a larger spend” (48 per cent).

One of the key reasons that bigger retailers are leading the way is because they are at the forefront with modern payment technology that includes the ability to accept contactless card payments which have been paramount to the customer experience.

Contactless is the UK’s fastest growing payment method, and is growing year on year. According to the UK Cards Association as of July 2016, there are a total of 92.1 m contactless cards in circulation and these contactless cards are split between debit (64.7m) and credit / charge cards (27.4m). This is an increase of 1.6% on the previous month and 29.9% over the year.

The rise and popularity of this payment method is allowing retail businesses to process payments quicker and eliminate lengthy queues forming.

Contactless credit card machines are not as widely used by small to medium sized businesses – and this may be down to the myth that they’re expensive to introduce, as businesses look to keep costs down.

By choosing an independent card terminal supplier such as Wireless Terminal Solutions (WTS), we can help minimise costs for customers. As with the introduction of any new technology, there is often some cost involved in switching over, but unlike other companies, WTS don’t have any set up fees on our contactless card machines.

As the festive season fast approaches, and stores see a dramatic increase in the volume of people visiting stores, going contactless enables SMEs to process card payments faster than ever before which is pivotal to keeping customers content, and avoiding lengthy queues which can see customers walk out empty handed.

Going contactless for Christmas 2016 also adds another level of convenience to customers.  It means customers don’t need to carry excessive change around for low value items, and as a result, this then enables customers to purchase more and best of all there’s no need to count theloose change at the checkout in order to decide whether to make an impulse purchase.

If you are considering introducing contactless payments but don’t want to commit to a lengthy 3-4 year agreement, why not consider a short term card machine rental for a fixed period over the festive period to suit you, which will allow your business to see the benefit contactless payments bring to your business. In Christmas 2016, there is no reason why businesses shouldn’t be armed with the technology customers deserve!