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Holiday Shopping Trends in the Nordic Markets

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This year, Nordic consumers got into the Christmas shopping mood well in advance as retailers started competing for consumers’ Christmas spending as early as October. Black Friday, a one-day sales tradition from the U.S. at the end November, acted as a real kick-start to the season. Key trends for the 2015 Christmas shopping season in the Nordics are online shopping along with organic and craft products.

Black Friday sets records in the Nordics

From the end of October, retailers in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland started running massive marketing campaigns and offering discounts and special product assortments, usually provided with a free gift-wrapping service, to get consumers in the Christmas shopping mood. Black Friday, which has evolved considerably in the last two years in the Nordics and is seen as the start to the Christmas shopping season, is still increasing its importance in the region. Combined with the lighting-up of Christmas trees and the opening of stores until midnight, it is becoming an important event that boosts retailers’ sales and attracts customers, who are postponing their big purchases until the last Friday of November. Black Friday in 2015 beat all the records in the Nordic countries, not only in the store-based channel, but also online. Online sales during Black Friday in Nordic countries increased by more than 50% compared to 2014. A big share of Christmas gifts is bought online, while stores are used as showrooms to check out the products.

Online shopping: A modern-day Christmas miracle?

The holiday season for many can be a stressful period as they juggle the season’s festivities with other Christmas activities, such as shopping, cleaning and decorating. Internet retailing is therefore a practical solution for many consumers pressed for time. This is certainly evident in the Nordics, as over half the region’s consumers report that they intend to purchase at least one, if not more, of this year’s Christmas gifts online. Apparel and footwear products are the most popular Christmas gift products bought online, followed by books and consumer electronics. Flexible delivery methods, well-established return policies and convenience are among the most prominent motivations behind why consumers choose online shopping over traditional bricks-and-mortar stores in the Nordics.

Something traditional, something new: Nordic consumers opt for lighter drinks over the holiday period

As the alcoholic drinks industry in the Nordics – troubled by high taxation, bans and strict legislation – struggles with stagnating volumes, it is no surprise that it welcomes the Christmas season with open arms. The season usually doubles alcohol sales compared to rest of the year and, besides volume growth, value growth looks even more astonishing as people indulge themselves with premium products such as cognac or champagne. One thing that is characteristic of Christmas in Europe’s Far North is glögg, or mulled wine, a popular choice for warming consumers up over the festive period. During the Christmas meal, comprised of several courses, Nordic consumers traditionally opt for such heavy drinks as red wine and port, whiskies and cognac. Dark beer is the most popular drink for Swedes.

This year the industry is witnessing a shift to lighter drinks, such as organic wines, Riesling, craft beers and non/low alcoholic drinks. Champagne is no longer reserved just for New Year celebrations, but many drink it throughout their Christmas meal. Lighter drinks are attracting health-conscious Nordic consumers with their lower alcohol and calorie content. The craft beer trend keeps booming throughout the holidays, with this year’s focus being on ale and "light" Christmas beer types.

Glossy Christmas magazines shape the merriest of meals

Nordic consumers are willing to pay higher-than-normal prices for food over the Christmas period. Organic food is gaining popularity in all the Nordic countries, but, at Christmas, the motivation for buying organic food is taste, rather than altruism. There is also lower-than-usual health awareness over Christmas, which is indicated by the strong sales of seasonal chocolate in all four countries. Christmas sales are less important for packaged food than for other consumer goods markets, but brand owners and retailers still see it as an excellent time to display a consumer-orientated assortment that will entice consumers to return throughout the year.

At Christmas, extra attention is paid to cooking food from scratch, which benefits fresh food sales in particular. Consumers are influenced in what to buy and cook by glossy Christmas magazines, fancy food bloggers and televised cooking shows. Equally, glossy packaging is an important sales factor for packaged food in December.

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