‘I am prepping hard,’ says Phoebe, 39, from Epsom. ‘The turkey is ordered, Guinness World Records and Trivial Pursuit purchased. I am adding one Christmas item to our weekly online grocery order so last-minute shortages can’t touch me.
I admit I have bought into the media hysteria. But after everything, it makes sense to get ahead. Mainly it’s because my daughter, who is seven, has had a terrible 18 months, missing out on all the things that matter to children. This Christmas is a way of bringing it back.’
Ruth, 36, from Durham, who has two children aged six and four, feels the same way. ‘The coverage about shortages has made me really anxious. I’ve already bought presents from Santa and normally I would scoff at those ordering gifts this early. I think the fuel shortages just added to my feeling of, “Right, that’s it, I need to get sorted.”’
Sarah, 38, from east London, also has two children, aged two and five, and she’s not messing about either. ‘I invited family a few weeks ago, have booked my Ocado slot and I’m thinking about my menu this morning while my toddler is watching Stick Man. I’m always quite organised but I’m extra freaked this year, as it feels like everything is going to pot. What if Ocado runs out of fuel? Not sure what I can do to guard against that.’
We are all part of a wider national picture of anxiety. The home crafting giant Hobbycraft, for example, has noted an unusually early surge in demand for Christmas products, with a spike as far back as April.
At the end of September this year, searches for ‘ceramic decorations’ were up 260 per cent, while searches for ‘baubles’ were up 70 per cent in August, compared to the period last year.
Aldi is currently selling 1,500 frozen turkey crowns a day, four times the usual rate for this time of year – and has seen Christmas pudding sales shoot up 45 per cent. At Waitrose, double the amount of people have already booked their Christmas delivery slot compared to this time last year.
The pressure was always going to be on for Christmas 2021, considering last year’s bonfire of festive dreams, but it’s worse now we can’t be sure how much of what will be available and when. And if we’ve learnt anything, it’s that other people can’t be trusted not to stockpile and panic-buy. It’s all behaviour that disrupts the just-in-time delivery systems most consumer businesses use, which only function if everyone stays calm. Ha!
The temptation to flee this perfect storm is huge – my fantasies include empty pristine beaches – but recalling the hassle of travel in the summer, I’m not sure that’s the answer. So how bad will a UK Christmas really be? No one from Ocado, Amazon Fresh, Smyths Toys or John Lewis will talk to me about it, which doesn’t fill me with confidence.