By Daniel Hunter

In line with improving economic conditions and a healthy year of trading, the UK’s retail sector is feeling bullish about the upcoming festive season according to an independent survey of multi-channel retailers, commissioned by Barclays’ Retail & Wholesale banking team.

Seventy percent of retailers are feeling more confident about Christmas trading compared to last year, which includes 28% who said they are far more confident. This festive cheer compares favourably to last year, when just over half (52%) were feeling optimistic about the trading period ahead. The majority of those surveyed (72%) also said that they expected revenues to increase, with over a fifth (21%) expecting sales to increase by 10% or more, compared to 2013.

Retailers are expecting to see growth across all of their sales channels over Christmas, with shopping on tablets predicted to take off. 35% of retailers said it would be their main sales channel from a growth perspective, ahead of smartphones and stores, both at 19%. While in its infancy, retailers believe that shopping for gifts via social networking sites could increase by over a fifth (21%) compared to 2013.

Richard Lowe, Head of Retail & Wholesale at Barclays, commented: “2014 has been a good year for many retailers thanks to heightened consumer confidence and this is clearly reflected in their brighter outlook for the Christmas season. It’s interesting to see that purchases on tablets have been cited as retailers’ biggest opportunity for growth and social commerce is also one to watch in the future, as ‘buy buttons’ on social networking sites will make online shopping even more accessible.”

The popularity of American shopping days is also on the up, with 65% of retailers planning Black Friday promotions on 28th November, the day after Thanksgiving, one of the most important shopping days in the U.S. retail calendar. 69% of those surveyed also said that they expect the popularity of Black Friday promotions to continue to gain traction in the UK in the years ahead.

Another tradition that has crossed the Atlantic is Mega Monday, traditionally the busiest online shopping day in America, which is set to fall on December 1st. Nearly all (96%) of the retailers questioned predicted that traffic will increase to their site on Mega Monday, compared to last year.

Richard Lowe continued: “The UK hasn’t seen Black Friday and Mega Monday fall on the same weekend since 2008 so retailers will be pulling out all the stops to make it a great shopping experience with some dazzling offers. However, some consumers will opt to leave their Christmas shopping later than this, thanks to improved delivery and Click and Collect options.”

While practical gifts are viewed by over half (51%) as the most popular type of present predicted to be under the Christmas tree, this has dwindled from 69% last year, as an increasing number of retailers (37%) think that frivolous, fun presents will be more popular than in previous years. Over one in ten (12%) think that shoppers will be more likely to purchase a few expensive luxury gifts instead, reflecting the UK’s burgeoning consumer confidence.

On Christmas Day itself, nearly all (99%) retailers expect traffic to their sites to be up, as shoppers scour for sale bargains, with the peak time for online shopping predicted to be between 8pm and 10pm.

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