2014 Holiday Shopping Trends

2014 ShopperTrak Holiday Shopping Trends

by Kevin Kearns on 10-20-14 in Holidays

The 2014 holiday shopping season is just around the corner and the analysts at ShopperTrak have been busy identifying interesting data points and insights to help prepare retailers for their busiest time of the year. We’ve discovered a few actionable trends, highlighted below, for retailers looking to optimize their planning for the holidays.

Shoppers Starting Earlier in the Season

One of the major holiday shopping trends over the past 10 years has been an increased propensity for shoppers to spend money earlier in the season. In 2011, 58.7% of total GAFO spending occurred in the month of December (NRF Calendar), whereas in 2013, just 56% of all Holiday in-store spending took place in December. November spending, relative to the whole season, has increased in 9 out of the previous 13 years. Despite a consistent increase in spending in November, in-store shopper traffic has actually shifted the opposite direction, with an increasing percentage occurring during December over the past 3 years. Holiday shoppers, like Back-to-School shoppers, are spending more money per visit but visiting stores less frequently. Increasingly, early Holiday promotions are encouraging shoppers to spend more earlier in the season. While retailers can expect shoppers to continue visiting stores all the way through Christmas and beyond, an increasing amount of annual shopping budgets are being spent in November. Retailers looking to take advantage of the trend shouldn’t wait until the (very) late Black Friday this year, as 40%+ of consumer spending will likely have occurred by that date. Instead, retailers should begin promotions early and target high-value, early-season shoppers to maximize holiday revenue.

While the bulk of spending still occurs in December, a 10+ year trend shows that shoppers are spending more in November, relatively, each year:
While GAFO revenue has increasingly shifted, relatively, toward November, in-store traffic has made a slight shift in the opposite direction, meaning early-season shoppers are spending more, per visit, than last-minute shoppers:
Expect More Traffic on Christmas Day

The traffic expectation for Christmas Day changes heavily year-to-year, based on the day of the week on which it falls. In 2011, when Christmas was on a Sunday, just 0.02% of seasonal traffic occurred on Christmas Day. Christmas occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in 2012 and 2013, and saw 0.63% and 1.16% of seasonal traffic. This year, Christmas will fall on a Thursday, which is historically the highest traffic day outside of Friday – Sunday, meaning that we expect a higher percentage of traffic to occur on Christmas Day. Retailers that plan to be open on Christmas should anticipate more in-store traffic than the previous 3 years and will need to prepare accordingly. Both of these trends, (1) Shoppers Visiting Stores Earlier in the Season and (2) More Shoppers Expected on Christmas Day are reflected in the data table below:

Percentage of Seasonal In-Store Traffic by Day (NRF Calendar, 2011 – 2013)

The table below shows the percentage of the entire season’s traffic that occurred on a specific day, according the the NRF calendar. The NRF Calendar is designed to compare equivalent retail days, year-to-year, which is why specific days of the week line up in the table. The traffic for each year totals to 100% and, as you can see, traffic has shifted relatively earlier since 2011. Christmas Day changes year-to-year on the NRF calendar and is the 22nd of December in 2011 and the 24th of December in 2012 and 2013.
Average Spend Per Shopper Increasing Year-over-Year

According to ShopperTrak forecasts, total holiday in-store traffic is expected to decrease minimally, by 1.7% in 2014. Conversely, total retail sales are projected to increase 4.1% this year, following a 3.1% increase in 2013. With traffic expected to decrease slightly and total sales expected to improve, the big takeaway is that shoppers are spending more during each visit. As we saw with Back-to-School shoppers, Holiday shoppers have more research tools at their disposal, including consumer reviews and online shopping sites, reducing the amount of time spent  in-store browsing products. Retailers looking to take advantage of this trend should try to maximize conversion rate by closely looking at in-store placements and having enough associates on the floor to minimize wait times, particularly during busy days and times. Increased staffing, mobile checkouts and extended hours are common among retailers working to maintain the ratio of employees to shoppers, as shoppers are more valuable on a per-visit basis and, increasingly have less patience for longer wait times.


The Holiday season is always of the utmost importance to retailers, accounting for 19.2% of all annual sales during the holidays in 2013. This importance of the holiday season proves the necessity for retailers to closely watch annual trends, as well as their own data, to make the best decisions possible with regards to managing store promotions, staffing, and forecasting. ShopperTrak expects that shoppers will start spending early in the season this year, and that they will visit stores slightly less than in 2013. We also expect Christmas Day to be busier than the previous few years, meaning that retailers should ensure they are staffed properly. We will continue to publish data and retailer insights throughout the holiday season, so continue to follow us on social networks and check the blog for periodic updates.

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Read more posts by Kevin Kearns

Kevin Kearns is the Chief Revenue Officer at ShopperTrak, where he oversees the professional services and marketing department, as well as the global sales and sales operations teams. He previously served as the Chief Sales Officer, where he was responsible for leading global sales and customer service operating in over 90 countries.

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