How early should your retail business start promoting holiday shopping? This year, the answer is “earlier than ever.” The way the holidays fall in 2016, as well as some important changes in consumers’ attitudes, could have a dramatic effect on customers’ shopping patterns — and your store sales.
Traditionally, the last Saturday before Christmas is called “Super Saturday” in the retail world, and is typically a huge shopping day as consumers hurry to get the final items on their holiday gift lists. This year, however, both Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah fall on Super Saturday — which is good and bad news for independent retailers. Here’s what to consider as you prepare.
Instead of heading out to local stores on December 24, many customers will be traveling to visit relatives or hunkering down with their families to celebrate the holidays. This could mean that December 17 — the Saturday before Super Saturday — will take on greater importance. You may need additional staff on December 17 to handle more shoppers.
Another factor in Christmas falling on a Sunday is that more people than usual may take Friday, December 23, off from work to prepare. And don’t forget that the day after Christmas is typically busy for retailers, with customers returning unwanted gifts or using gift cards. Because Christmas is on Sunday, more people than usual could take Monday off from work, and your store could see a lot more traffic.
The good news for brick-and-mortar retailers is that, with Super Saturday on Christmas Eve, consumers who need last-minute gifts will be far more likely to run out to local stores rather than choose online shopping. This could spell opportunity for your small business to beat the big guys. In addition, the first day of Hanukkah (the holiday lasts for eight days) falling on Super Saturday means that in the week after Christmas, you have a chance to capture last-minute Hanukkah shoppers.
2016 Holiday Marketing Calendar Tips
How can your retail store handle this year’s crazy holiday calendar? Here are some tips:
1. Learn from the past. If you’ve been in business for a while, looking back at prior years’ calendars can help you. Review records and see how you handled staffing, inventory and marketing in years when the holidays fell on a similar time frame. What worked and what didn’t?
2. Start marketing early. Your customers may already have started their holiday shopping. In a recent survey by RichRelevance, more than one-fourth (27 percent) say they’d started shopping by Labor Day. And though many Americans still dislike “Christmas creep” — when businesses start marketing holiday shopping before Thanksgiving or even Halloween — they’re becoming more accepting of it. Sixty-three percent of consumers surveyed say they dislike seeing holiday items in stores before Halloween, but that’s down from 71 percent two years ago. Millennials are even less bothered by Christmas creep: Just 51 percent say it bugs them.
3. Educate your customers about this year’s holiday calendar. Many consumers won’t realize until it creeps up on them that the Saturday before Christmas is different this year. Marketing that emphasizes “XX shopping days until Christmas” or “Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to cross off the last gift on your list” can motivate customers to start shopping earlier.
4. Look at local issues. For example, do schools in your area start winter break the week before Christmas, or the week after? Having children at home may impact parents’ shopping behavior the week before Christmas, as they could be more likely to be doing family activities than heading to the mall. On the other hand, the week after Christmas could see increased retail traffic from parents hoping to keep bored children entertained or children eager to spend their holiday gift cards.
5. Promote your store as the last-minute solution. This year more than ever, your marketing should emphasize that you’re ready to help customers find the perfect last-minute gift. Remind customers that when they buy from you, there’s no waiting for delivery or worry that a package won’t arrive in time. Consider bundling products into ready-made “gift packs” that customers can grab quickly. Stock gift bags, tissue and gift tags near the register to speed up customers’ Christmas Eve wrapping. Offer to put products on hold for customers so they can run in and pick them up.
How are you planning to handle Super Saturday in your stores?
Christmas Calendar Photo via Shutterstock
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