It may seem a little early to start talking about what to expect from Christmas 2011 in retail; but the major retailers were probably planning Christmas since February! As it’s practically November already, it’s time to get your santa-hat on (festive thinking cap – that’s my attempt at a pun) and consider what sales, footfall and the mix between online and high street / in-store is going to be.
When is the Christmas seasonal peak in retail?
The traditional Christmas seasonal peak has been happening later and later in the past years, as consumers try to play a poker-game with the retailers, holding back from spending in case the retailers’ nerves cave in and they go into sale before the traditional post-Xmas period. This behaviour seems to have been fuelled by the major players who have, in the last few years, gone into sale BEFORE Boxing Day.
I would predict that with Christmas day being a Sunday will push the peak even further back, with the main shopping days being from Saturday 17th December and the full week running up to Christmas weekend; which is after most of the schools have broken up. The vast majority of spending will happen on the weekend of 17th & 18th December although retailers can expect to see the last-minute shopper (the gentlemen typically :-)) racing round the shops on Saturday 24th if they’re not otherwise tied up entertaining family!
What about online – the dynamic is very different
Online is indeed very different. The peak period for online sales typically be the first 2 weeks of December. Few online orders will be placed beyond Monday 19th December as retailers will be closing off delivery windows and almost none will be able to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas, given the volumes they’re dealing with, at that point in time.
In 2010 the heavy snow added a new concern to those who’d made online orders; so if we see snow again this year it might make consumers reluctant to order online because they want confidence that their online purchases will be delivered in time (which wasn’t the case in 2010). If the weather is poor that’s good news for the high street as consumers will head to their most local retail centres to make their purchases.
There is always a debate about which date will be the biggest for online transactions, in the past it has been the first or 2nd Monday of December. We’ll have to wait and see what happens this year.
Key things to consider for smaller, independent retailers this Christmas
If I could give you just 3 things to focus on this Christmas (and this is for store-based retailers specifically) then it would be:
- Get the window right – use vibrant displays and engaging promotions – this will draw passing footfall into your store
- Get the service right – make sure you have sufficient, competent staff cover to assist customers making their purchases and to avoid queues at the till.
- Get the stock out onto the shop floor – customers won’t ask “do you have this item…. ” if the shop is busy, and they’re short of time, if they can’t find product on the shop floor, whether you’ve got it or not, you won’t be selling it!
#IndieXmas – Celebrate buying Christmas Gifts from local, independent retailers
Finally, and as a result of a debate on Twitter, the team at Skillsmart Retail (behind Independents’ Day) and I (behind Independent Retailer Month) have decided to spread the word of a special #-tag – #IndieXmas. We want to remind consumers that if they want really special, unique gifts AND the kinds of special, unique service that they would expect to get from their friendly, local, independent… then they NEED to start planning to buy their gifts from Independent Retailers this Christmas!
#IndieXmas is something you can use to let everyone know about special offers on special items in YOUR stores and, we hope, that it will create some excitement around Christmas shopping, making it less of a chore and more of a pleasure!
Here’s to a very successful, Indie Xmas!