Scramble For Air Fryers & Hair Dryers As Cash Strapped Brits Ditch The High Street For Online Marketplaces

06 December 2023

  • Cost of living pushing Brits to online platforms to keep costs down
  • Shoppers at risk from dangerous goods sold via third party sellers on online marketplaces
  • Air fryers top the must-have list this year, as energy prices continue to soar
  • Father reveals he has just moved back into his home after an e-bike gift for his son last Christmas destroyed their home

Competition for air fryers, hair dryers and games consoles will be fierce this Christmas, as they top a new hot list with cash-strapped shoppers ditching the high street for online marketplaces.

Yet dangerous Christmas gifts risk being placed under thousands of trees as households feeling the financial squeeze from the cost of living crisis turn to online platforms, such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay and TikTok Shop in a bid to cut the cost of Christmas.

In a move that could leave shoppers exposed to dangerous presents, a survey of more than 4,000 adults across the UK reveals a staggering 52% of those surveyed intend to or have already done the majority of their Christmas shopping for electronics via online marketplaces, whilst just 37%  will turn to the high street or high street stores online.

Just under a quarter (24%)1 of Christmas shoppers also intend to spend less this year, with the cost of living crisis the leading factor in households cutting back on present purchasing.

Of those who intend to spend less 61% are doing so because of the cost of living crisis a with 24% turning to online marketplaces in the hope of keeping costs down.

Yet last-minute shoppers scrambling for cheap gifts are being warned they risk inadvertently buying dangerous products for their loved ones as previous investigations from Electrical Safety First have found dangerous hairdryers, heaters that risk electric shock and substandard phone chargers all freely available via online marketplaces.

“Many households have struggled in yet another year of financial pressure and are desperately seeking to keep the cost of Christmas down,” Lesley Rudd, chief executive of Electrical Safety First said. “But their scramble for air fryers and other must-have electronics this year could leave them vulnerable, with ruthless sellers on online marketplaces looking to cash in on Christmas at the expense of shoppers’ safety.”

The charity is urging shoppers to stick to reputable high street or trusted retailers in the lead up to Christmas, to ensure what they place under the tree is safe.

Andrew Beaton, a father whose well intentioned Christmas gift last year for his son started a fire, renews his warning to others about shopping for electricals online this time of year: “An innocent purchase I bought online from a marketplace destroyed our home and left us with nothing. Like any parent I wanted to see my kids smile on Christmas day. The e-bike was a Christmas gift for my son, something I thought he’d love but when it was charging overnight by the stairs it went off like a grenade. Our stairs caught alight and my family were minutes from not making it out alive. Since the fire our home was so damaged we couldn’t live in it. We were left without our home for six months, only moving back in last week.

“My children are still affected by the fire. The trauma of it doesn’t leave you when you’re faced with flames in the middle of the night like we were, nobody can understand what it’s like seeing your home go up in flames until it happens to them. This Christmas I am so grateful my family are alive and safe. If it hadn’t have been for my son getting up in the night for a glass of water and noticing the fire starting I don’t think we’d all be here today. I want to warn other people out there shopping online for Christmas gifts to be careful. I thought what I was buying would be safe but it was a ticking time bomb. Stick to your reputable high street retailers if you can, nobody wants to end up buying a gift that risks the safety of your family.”

Andrew outside his home after it was destroyed by the blaze earlier this year

Picture caption: Andrew outside his home after it was destroyed by the blaze earlier this year


The warning comes as Electrical Safety First reveals this year’s tech ‘must-haves’ as shoppers surveyed are set to scramble for air fryers, hair dryers and games consoles, closely followed by smart speakers, blenders, kettles and electric grooming kits.

Picture caption: An air fryer caused extensive damage to a kitchen in Essex believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. Credit: Essex County Fire & Rescue Service

Collectively almost 10% intend to buy either an e-bike, e-scooter or conversion kit, but there are  warnings that substandard versions of these products can cause deadly fires, with nine deaths having already occurred this year alone. 

Air fryers in particular have seen a huge increase in popularity over the last year with just over 1 in 8 (13%) adults expected to grab one this Christmas as energy bills continue to put pressure on households. 


Mobile phone / tablet


Hair dryer / Hair straighteners


Games console (such as a Playstation, xBox or Nintendo Switch)


Air fryer


Smart speaker


Small kitchen appliance such as blender / kettle


Personal grooming kit such as an electric shaver


Phone charger / Electronic mobile phone accessory




Virtual reality headset




Yet it’s not just dangerous Christmas gifts that risk dampening spirits this year, as Brits surveyed admit to decorating their tree with potentially dangerous Christmas lights.

Of those surveyed, nearly 1 in 10 (10%) admitted the lights they will wrap around their tree this year are frayed from years of wear and tear, risking a potential Christmas fire   whilst nearly 1 in 5 (19%) admit to leaving their Christmas lights on overnight.

“Dried out trees can go up like a bonfire if a spark ignites,” Lesley Rudd adds. “Check your lights for frayed wires which can produce heat and avoid leaving them turned on overnight. If a fire occurs when you are sleeping your response time can be hugely delayed. This Christmas the best silent night is one with no switched-on lights.”

Households are also being urged to check older electrical Christmas decorations that may be sentimental. Households’ electric Christmas decorations on average are four years old, yet respondents also intended to use decorations they had used for up to 60 years. Older decorations can be become damaged over the years.

Christmas ‘hacks’ promising to keep the floor clear of pine needs also risk turning the Christmas centerpiece for many homes into a flammable fire risk, with just under 1 in 7 (13%) adults surveyed admitting to using hair spray on their tree in a bid to prevent the needles from falling off.

The warning comes during the charity’s annual awareness week Electrical Fire Safety Week launches in partnership with Home Office.

A new campaign film launched by Electrical Safety First will promote an alternative message to shoppers at a time when screens are dominated by the big retailers’ Christmas adverts. In the film, common Christmas ornaments, including a fairy, nutcracker and Christmas elf spring to life during the night, eliminating electrical hazards that have accidentally occurred whilst a family sleeps on Christmas eve.

1 Significantly more and A little bit more combined

Notes to editor:

Research conducted by Censuswide, on behalf of ESF using 4002 nationally representative general consumers between 22.11.23 - 27.11.23. Censuswide abides by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.