Black Friday – For buying gifts that research shows nearly 50% of us don’t want

With Black Friday today, retailers will hit fever pitch, promising that they have the deals to beat all deals. With so much of a buzz around buying though, we pause to consider the recipients, and what they really want for Christmas.


Last Christmas, PrettyGreen conducted research over the festive period, so that we could examine what really goes on in UK homes at this time of year. When, ordinarily, qual research shuts down, through our bespoke, ongoing panel, Grapevine, we were able to gain access on and around Christmas Day itself.



PrettyGreen Grapevine: Researching in home on Christmas Day



PrettyGreen Grapevine: Researching in home on Christmas Day



What we learnt was that the fragmentation of families, both socially and geographically, has arguably turned Christmas into a bigger occasion than it has ever been. Nowadays only 1 in 50 homes eat a roast dinner every week, meaning that even the meal itself has been elevated to a new, more rare, status, and this has amplified how we behave and what we value.


For this special period, people are actually making more of an effort with their loved ones than ever, both emotionally and physically. We travel further, we buy more and try harder as we live, for a few days, as the family we idealise to be. We play board games and converse in a way that our frenetic, everyday lives do not seem to allow. We tolerate each others differences, as best we can, and, when it’s all over, reflect on the human connections over the material stuff every time.






It is interesting to see that some of the major advertising campaigns this year, namely Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Lidl, have focused on the intangibles of Christmas too, such as coming home or spending quality time. So, does this mean that the gifts even matter anymore?


In a related piece of research, conducted with OnePoll, we discovered that only 33% of adults want majority of presents they receive at Christmas, and 1 in 8 gifts (to a value of £2.6 billion) are returned to stores after the festive season. But to assume this means we don’t want gifts is a mistake.


Heavy gifting is a much loved and very British activity. A recent report by ING showed that the average Briton will spend £350, a whopping 17% of our income, on presents, which is a full £110 higher than the shoppers in our neighbouring countries. So keen is our spending that 14% of us will end up in debt after the festive period.


Known for our inability to express emotion, giving and gifting is a way of being affectionate. It is a way of showing you love and understand somebody and, for that, it will always matter. Captured by John Lewis, in what is established as the don of Christmas campaigns year after year, is the strategy of ‘thoughtful gifting’. This platform continues to create hit after hit, because it so brilliantly cues the human moments alongside (not in favour of) the act of giving. This key layer ensures the rich emotion of their content smacks us right in the heart, without ever compromising the business objective that allows them fund it all again the following year.