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CHICAGO – Retailers can make it or break it this holiday season depending on well prepared they are for a handful of peak shopping days.
According to Chicago-based market research firm ShopperTrak, just 10 of the 32 shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas can account for more than one-third of sales, based on past years’ performances.
Indeed, 36.5 percent of retail sales of general merchandise in November and December were done over 10 days last year, which helped drive a 3.7 percent increase in total holiday period volume.
“Those 32 days provide extra time for consumers to shop more frequently and to visit more stores during the holidays,” said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin. “But retailers must prepare to capitalize on the holiday opportunity while managing the increase in operating costs that go hand-in-hand with extended store hours on more shopping days.
“To make the most of these ‘bonus days,’ they’ll need to account for the calendar shift, as this year’s busiest days will be different than those of prior years,” he noted. “Retailers also will need to better understand and manage their store foot traffic and focus on improving shopper-conversion rates to increase sales.”
Central to this year’s increased retail foot traffic and sales are two extra weekends in the holiday season that result from Christmas falling on a Tuesday. One “extra” weekend will occur between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while the second will fall between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Weekends are vital to retailers, and seven of the top 10 retail traffic days and six of the top 10 sales days will fall on the six weekends between Black Friday and Dec. 31.
Not surprisingly, ShopperTrak expects that Black Friday will once again be the single biggest sales and foot-traffic day of the holiday season. Last year Black Friday sales rose 6.6 percent over 2010, resulting in $11.4 billion in retail purchases — the largest dollar amount ever spent on that day, the research firm said. Retail foot traffic rose accordingly, increasing by 5.1 percent year over year.
“This unusually long season presents retailers with opportunities and challenges,” added Martin. “They’ll have a golden opportunity to convert more browsers into buyers, but they’ll have to prepare to manage increased operating costs. Retailers will need to optimize staffing, scheduling, marketing and advertising with the calendar and individual store trends in mind.”