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“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes, Christmas is all around me, and so the feeling grows…” Winter is on the doorstep and, regardless of lifestyle and religion, households in Eastern Europe are in the middle of preparations, either for Christmas, New Year or both. Hunting for gifts this year, Eastern Europeans appeared to be pickier than a year ago, opting for the best price and practical use in their presents.
Although still quite a novelty in the region, Black Friday in Eastern Europe is gaining momentum to become recognised as the holiday shopping starting event. Lasting for one day, the whole weekend, extended over a longer period and in some particular cases even to one month, the occasion is increasingly celebrated by both retailers and consumers. With promoted sales and discounts of up to 80-90% it attracts a lot of consumer attention and, of course, spending. Even in Russia and Ukraine, with their economic instability, the event is seen as an opportunity due to the strongly advertised price advantage and the perception of an investment in durable goods, which would lessen the devaluation effect.
Over the Christmas season alcoholic drinks have not only become an integral part of the festive table, but are also becoming popular as a present. Nicely decorated gift sets of alcoholic drinks in unusual bottles, often packed together with wine, beer or shot glasses, will be in great demand during Christmas shopping. Traditionally, among spirits, vodka is the most commonly bought alcoholic drink. However, due to noticeable changes in drinking habits among Eastern Europeans, vodka is gradually losing its position to other more premium alcoholic drinks, such as whiskies, liqueurs or rums. There is a visible trend of increased interest in mixing and preparing cocktails at home. Consumers are in search of new fresh tastes and are opting for experimenting with mixing. Winter holidays will be also a promising period for craft beers. Limited edition craft beers from small local breweries with a unique taste and distinctive bottle decoration will be popular this year as a Christmas gift.
This year in Eastern European countries, consumers will mostly buy what is on sale, as brand loyalty is not that strong when it comes to discounts.
As in previous years, cosmetics and fragrances will be preferred to other types of presents as the last-minute option. Suitable for low budgets and considered as something practical, such products are unlikely to lose much ground in the top rankings to other more costly goods, such as gadgets or jewellery, this year. This is especially true for crisis-riven CIS countries and Ukraine. Other parts of Eastern Europe that are not experiencing a crisis will be choosing beauty goods due to convenience, opting for more masstige or premium options for Christmas, rather than day-to-day ones.
Choosing the place to celebrate, domestic destinations will remain the most popular for Eastern Europeans in 2015. Some of the big European cities are seen as an option thanks to the growing popularity of Christmas markets or the more friendly temperatures, combined with the cultural experience and easy access, in most cases. Exotic destinations like Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives or the Dominican Republic remain holiday destinations only for a small percentage of Eastern Europeans. Due to the decreasing purchasing power and governmental bans, more affordable beach destinations such as Egypt, popular among Russians in particular, will be replaced by domestic destinations. Skiing trips in the Alps or in countries that offer good value for money, such as Bulgaria, will also be among the most popular choices for Eastern Europeans this year.
CIS countries are opting not only for cheaper gifts, but also for less pricy ways of spending the Christmas and New Year holidays in 2015. Their greater preference for home celebration and consumption of less expensive, domestically manufactured products favours retailers rather than operators of foodservice or resorts abroad. On the other hand, in other Eastern European countries, such as Poland, Romania, Hungary or the Czech Republic, both domestic retailers and foodservice operators are benefiting from improving economic conditions and busy lifestyles. Christmas home cooking and baking requires a lot of time. As Poles, Romanians, Hungarians and Czechs, for example, are under time pressure, they are looking for ways to make preparations for the holidays easier and more relaxed. Consequently, more Eastern Europeans are starting to use the services of traditional bakeries and retailers. The reason is the quality of food, which is significantly improved and reminds them of home-cooked meals, adding the aroma of freshly baked products to the Christmas and New Year feasts.