This year marks the first time since 2012 that there are four Saturdays in December prior to Christmas Day. The shift in the calendar is expected to influence shoppers’ behavior and redistribute top shopping days. Specifically, the surplus of Saturdays this year presents a unique opportunity. Retailers must keep a close eye on the calendar this year when it comes to staffing and stocking for the holiday shopping rush, both before and after Christmas Day.
A look into the 2017 holiday shopping calendar
Based on historical data, we predict that the top 10 busiest shopping days in 2017 will be:
Friday, Nov. 24
Saturday, Dec. 23
Saturday, Dec. 16
Tuesday, Dec. 26
Saturday, Nov. 25
Friday, Dec. 22
Saturday, Dec. 9
Saturday, Dec. 2
Saturday, Dec. 30
Thursday, Dec. 21
While Black Friday shopper visits may not reach the same peaks as they did during its heyday, the day’s significance remains uncontested. Historical data shows that year after year, Black Friday continues to rank, by a wide margin, as the single busiest day of the of the holiday season. There’s no evidence that 2017 will be any different.
Additionally, all four Saturdays leading up to Christmas Day are included in this list. Historical traffic data indicates that shopper visits increase each Saturday leading up to Christmas Eve. As a result, the fourth and final Saturday before the holiday, commonly known as Super Sat., Dec. 23, is predicted to be the second busiest shopping day behind Black Friday. And because it falls within 48 hours of Christmas this year, shoppers are likely to hit stores at the last-minute in the masses.
It is essential that retailers have their top staff scheduled for each Saturday leading up to Christmas Day, especially Super Saturday, if they’d like to see revenue grow along with the expected pattern of heavy foot traffic.
However, the nuances of this year’s holiday calendar do not end once Christmas is over. Sat., Dec. 30, represents another full shopping day preceding New Year’s Eve. Shoppers will likely enjoy the extra days before the new year to exchange items, use gift cards or take advantage of the post-holiday sales.
The complications of reverse supply chain logistics and online items returned to stores is also expected to increase during this period. With nearly half of the holiday opportunity on the table during the expected top 10 busiest shopping days, retailers cannot afford to falter just because Christmas Day is over. They must leverage the calendar shift and store-specific historical data to enhance staffing and inventory strategies.
The keys to successfully executing against the calendar shift
The holiday shopping season is paramount for in-store shopping and can distinguish retailers from competitors in the e-commerce space. While it is crucial to schedule the best sales associates during the busiest days to help drive sales, retailers need to have an all-hands-on-deck approach for re-stocking and fulfillment activities as well.
Keeping shelves and displays stocked also make a notable difference in store performance during the holiday season. No matter the time of year, a shopper ultimately has a less pleasant experience when an item is unavailable. This holds to be even more true when holiday shopping. Looking at this year’s calendar, retailers need to stock their shelves accordingly to keep up with the influx of expected shoppers.
Because every store is different, looking at past holiday data – traffic, transactional, labor – can help retailers more precisely plan their inventory. Retailers should also pay especially close attention to items included in holiday promotions or advertisements. Additionally, the rise of online influence means that shoppers have most likely researched products before coming in-store.
Now that some retailers offer this option, shoppers can even check if an item is available in a specific store beforehand. Having accurate inventory and trained staff is imperative for unified commerce fulfillment options, such as buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and ship-from-store services.
With holiday retail sales expected to increase between 3.6 percent to 4 percent, now is the time to review individual store or regional historical traffic data, compare traffic rankings with the anticipated busiest days, and refine holiday strategy accordingly.
Brian Field is the senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Field served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. He has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.