Making Merry – When should you start playing Christmas hits in-store?

Making Merry –  When should you start playing Christmas hits in-store?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – when the tills start ringing and the bells ring out for Christmas Day – but just how much Christmas music should you play in-store, what makes customers tick, and what drives them away?

Shoppers want to hear Christmas music in EARLY DECEMBER, with 1980s classics the popular choice – and 1 in 6 are set to buy more as a result, according to research from the PPL PRS.

Consumers officially wish to hear Christmas music in early December (36%) despite noticing stores play it from the start of November (42%) according to new data from music licensing company PPL PRS

Over a third (38%) want to hear festive music constantly.

Seasonal hits

Seasonal hits from the 1980s (like ‘Last Christmas’ and ‘Do They Know Its Christmas?’) are most popular (64%) followed by ‘90s classics like ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ (55%) but new songs from 2000 onwards lag behind (32%)

1 in 6 shoppers want to buy gifts – and 42% feel happier – as a result of hearing festive bops

As 47% of consumers confirm they’ll shop in person while 49% plan on a mix of high street and online browsing, a leading Music Therapist reveals using music to create an experience could unlock sales

Christmas lights illuminate high streets and everyone’s talking about the latest adverts – it must mean it’s Christmas time (for mistletoe and wine). But as a retailer, you might be wondering when the right time is to play festive music to avoid irritating shoppers and staff.

 New Survey

A new survey of 500 shoppers in the UK by music licensing company PPL PRS reveals that most want to hear Christmas songs in early December (36%) – despite noticing stores play it from the start of November (42%) and even October (21%). A meagre 3% desire to listen in late December; a safe bet is stopping after Christmas but there is a wealth of seasonal tunes that don’t namecheck the celebration.

When shoppers are in the mood for Christmas music, they’re all ears – over a third (38%) want to hear it ‘constantly’ while 31% will settle for ‘every other song’.

For any managers wondering what Christmas music to play in retail, the ‘golden age’ is the late 20th century. The most popular era being the 1980s – think Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ and Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ – followed by 1990s anthems like ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ by Mariah Carey.


Enthusiasm trails off for festive tunes from 2000 to present and traditional carols – only 32% of people like them.

Welcome news is the anticipated high street footfall. Nearly all those surveyed confirmed they would be shopping for Christmas presents in person this year – only 3% said they won’t. Most (49%) say they’ll visit a mix of brick-and-mortar stores and online. So, creating the perfect atmosphere has never been more important – and music can really help.

Timed right, seasonal tunes could drive sales. One in six (15%) shoppers want to buy gifts upon hearing it, while 18% spend more time in the store. The positive impact on emotion is clear; it fills them with festive spirit (53%) and makes them happier (42%).

Donna Gutteridge, Culture and Service Lead at Oliver Bonas commented “When it comes to the in-store music at Oliver Bonas, I always press the Christmas play button on the last Saturday in November.

Perfect balance

“I choose this day because it’s the perfect balance for our team members and customers. It just feels right. And always on the Saturday, as it gives the team a real boost as it starts to get busier and busier in our stores.

“The ratio of Christmas music to everyday music is about one Christmas song every 4th or 5th song, we have perfected the frequency over the years by asking the teams for their feedback. Some of the store team members would have Christmas music playing all year round so this is the perfect compromise. Plus, we hand pick all our songs and curate our own playlist and so the teams would miss the everyday music. Mostly for our teams, I know they really look forward to hearing our Christmas playlist kick in, they say it means Christmas has truly began.

“We find that playing Christmas music in our stores lifts the moods of our teams and customers, making them feel merry, and bringing them joy. Customers are likely to spend more time browsing and enjoy the in-store experience if they are listening to great tunes and I know the teams love to sing along. The style of Christmas music we play is a fantastic conversation starter and helps us to engage with our wonderful customers.”

Music Therapy

PPL PRS’ Music Therapist Marianne Rizkallah commented: “Hearing familiar music takes us back to points in our childhood and as we’re growing up – hopefully happy memories of quality time with our families, and a reminder of childlike wonder and excitement, a sense of looking forward to time with our loved ones and looking forward to the new year. So shops can tap into that emotion when playing Christmas music, which may increase the time spent in store by a customer during the festive period.

Christmas Songs

“Much like playing familiar Christmas songs while putting up decorations at home, Christmas music can help evoke a warm, joyful and excited atmosphere which makes us think of our loved ones and want to share gifts and experiences with them. Which may make customers more willing to spend more to gift their loved ones.

“Music that accompanies Christmas songs should match the festive mood. PPL’s own analysis of the most played Christmas songs of the 21st century shows that many Christmas songs have a BPM of 120 and are overwhelmingly in major keys, so using music that has those qualities should keep spirits high.”

* The survey commissioned by PPL PRS of 500 UK respondents by Attest in November 2023


The Music Licence  

In accordance with The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, permission is needed from the relevant copyright holders – those people who create music – in order to play or perform music in public. TheMusicLicence allows you to legally play music for employees or customers in your business through the radio, TV, other digital devices and live performances. This covers the vast majority of commercially available music, ranging from grassroots and independent artists and composers through to the biggest names in the business.

PRS – Performing Rights Society

PPL PRS Ltd is the organisation that issues, and collects the fees from, TheMusicLicence.  It is a joint venture between PPL and PRS for Music, the UK’s two music licensing societies, which has simplified the legal playing of music by introducing one licence, TheMusicLicence.

PPL represents performers and record companies. PRS for Music is a society of songwriters, composers and music publishers. Both organisations ensure that the creators and performers of music are paid when their music is used in public.

PPL and PRS for Music continue to represent their individual memberships, collecting monies owed to them from international societies, independently consulting on and negotiating on their separate Tariff rates, and licensing their broadcast, online and recorded media customers.