Czechs' Christmas spending blitz reaches pre-pandemic levels

The annual Christmas shopping bonanza is comparable to pre-pandemic times, though some habits have changed.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 06.12.2021 16:52:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Christmas markets may be closed, but the Czech Republic’s Christmas shopping frenzy is picking up pace. The festive season is vital for small and big businesses alike, and despite the pandemic, this year total spending is expected to approach pre-pandemic levels.

Sales this weekend rose by dozens of percent compared to normal, both in physical stores and on the internet, with demand highest for food, sweets and toys, as well as traditional Christmas decorations.

“Customer behavior this year is comparable to 2019,” claimed Tesco spokesperson Václav Koukolíček. Nonetheless, it is becoming clear that the increase in online shopping brought on by the pandemic in 2020 will continue to affect shopping habits this year, with sales growing significantly in most e-shops.

Mall.cz reported high sales at the weekend, and it appears a lower public appetite for staying indoors this year is having an effect on the items being bought: sales of sledges and toboggans were up by 300% year-on-year after a flurry of snow up and down the country.

With many Christmas shoppers having switched to online shopping last year, it seems some have become accustomed to seeking out gifts in this way. This greater level of trust in shopping online is likely to drive up the proportion of Christmas gifts bought online: as recent research by payment provider Barion discovered, the amount which people are willing to spend in an e-shop increases in line with their confidence when entering bank details online.

Ironically, customers living in large cities with a high income are more likely to feel comfortable about making big purchases online than those living in rural communities with limited access to brick-and-mortar stores. This means much of the Czech Republic’s Christmas e-commerce is likely to be focused around major urban centers such as Prague, which will in turn increase the overall proportion of Christmas shopping being done through the internet.

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The higher proportion of online shopping raises a new danger, though: increased pressure on postal and delivery services means people shouldn’t risk leaving their purchases too late.

“Czech Post has recorded an increase in shipments compared to the previous Christmas period. For the whole of 2019, Czech Post transported 41.5 million parcels; in 2020 it was over 52 million. Logistics capacities for this year are therefore set at 55 million parcels,” Czech Post said in a press release.

To ensure that parcels are delivered on time, Czech Post advises that all packages be handed over for transportation by 22 December; delivery by December 24 (the day on which gifts are exchanged in the Czech Republic) is not guaranteed for anything posted after this date. For goods bought through e-shops, Czech Post notes that buyers should take into account the processing time needed for e-shops to deliver parcels to the postal service.

The Christmas shopping frenzy moved online as a result of the pandemic last year, and although brick-and-mortar stores have stayed open this year, it looks like many people will choose to buy gifts online again this time. The closure of Christmas markets has provoked gloom among many small businesses; but online sellers will likely find reasons to be cheerful this festive season.

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