Abingdon, Oxford, UK – 23 October 2008 -- Huw Thomas, COO at retail systems experts PMC believes that Christmas 2008 is shaping up to be a retail shocker. Although ‘doom and gloom’ messages have often haunted retailers’ festivities (so that’s nothing new) this one looks set to be the real ‘nightmare before Christmas’.

"In recent years the lead up to the Christmas period has started off slowly and despite early dire predictions, sales have rallied at the last gasp. In the end, last-minute shopping usually makes December tolerable for retailers and some even show some year-on-year growth."

What about expectations of a last minute rush?

This year those expectations could be more like forlorn hope. The banking crisis, credit crunch, recession; whichever you want to blame, will have a far greater impact than usual. In previous years, the Christmas rush kicked-in during the last two weeks of shopping. Often much of that rush was driven by discounting, but will customers respond this time?

With customers' finances under more pressure than ever, Christmas 2008 will be much tougher. We’re mid October and already discounts of 60/ 70% are not uncommon in the high street. The closer it comes to Christmas the more retailers will have nowhere left to go.

Thomas states: "Before we all batten down the hatches, hope to ride out the storm and wait for the return of the good times, it’s important to understand that there will be winners as well as losers. Those retailers that get their strategies right should do well. When hard pressed clients no longer feel the urge to drag themselves down the recession-hit desert of the high street the lure of online shopping still exists. The trouble is that despite the rise and rise of multichannel retailing too many retailers fail to make their online offer attractive, easy to use and 100% reliable – now is not the time to find your online offer is not up to scratch."

One retail rule is always ‘to have a distinctive offer’

So why do many retailers imitate a herd of zebra? They all take the same action in the face of problems. Too many stand around in groups hoping that those closest to the edge will be the unlucky ones. They all look alike and only they can really tell one from another. The answer is to differentiate – on the high street and online. Rather than join the herd and offer larger and larger discounts make promise delivery your differentiator.

Thomas closes: "I’m still amazed by the number of online offers that fail to deliver against expectation. And there’s nothing more important than delivery. Poor delivery destroys marketing, sales and customer care messages. And who can afford that this Christmas? It comes down to setting expectations. Any customer contact with an organisation is a series of ‘moments of truth’. Every touch with a customer impacts on how they perceive the operation because each of those contacts eventually concerns delivery."

"Over-selling and over-promising always compromise delivery. That’s what I mean about getting strategies right and differentiating for the right reasons. Under delivering is fatal. Those retailers that deliver their Christmas promises may find the nightmare less horrid.
So any predictions on winners and losers or does the potential nightmare mean we all lose out? I’m sure that there will be continuing debate and comment right up until the New Year and beyond."

ends

About PMC
Retail systems experts, PMC (Paul Mason Consulting) offers its clients combined retail and IT experience, gained through working at the sharp end of the retail environment. PMC provides business consultancy services covering retail systems strategy, multichannel retailing and system selection. In addition, PMC offers project implementation, support, development, permanent and contract recruitment and training. The company’s IT implementation services are designed to eliminate implementation concerns and ensure problem free performance. They include project management, configuration, testing, software building, integration and custom enhancements. For more information please telephone: 01235 521900 or visit: www.paulmasonconsulting.co.uk

Press contact for PMC
Timothy Diplock
maxim PR
T: 01494 463 464
M: 07767 755 494
E: timothyd@maximlive.co.uk

Published on: 12:00AM on 23rd October 2008