End-of-Year Wrap Up: 2017 Retail Holiday Season Results

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by Brian Field on 01-08-18

With the holiday season behind us, it’s time for retailers to complete the process of evaluating end-of-year performance through analyzing 2017 retail holiday season results.

A proper holiday analysis will put any team in a solid position to showcase results to key stakeholders, and allow for the appropriate recognition of top performers.

While final annual traffic data is being compiled, here are five guiding shopper behavior trends that ShopperTrak’s team unearthed in the end-of-year 2017 retail holiday season results. As we’ve noted in earlier posts, we’ve leveraged a subset of our data to generate both our predictions and the results.

1.) Overall holiday traffic reversed a two-year trend

Brick-and-mortar traffic was down about 3% from the Sunday before Thanksgiving through the end of the calendar year. That’s a significant improvement over the pre-holiday YTD trend of shopper traffic being down between -5–6% and between -6–7% for both 2016 non-holiday and holiday season, respectively.  Not only was the traffic decline cut in half, but we saw a YOY increase in sales-per-shopper of more than 3%, this holiday.

Together, these factors indicate that consumers are still flocking to shopping centers, and that shoppers are increasing their spend when they get there. Examples of this stunning reversal of retail’s fortunes is already being discussed around large-format stores, such as, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney’s.  Truly, the data indicates that the retail apocalypse narrative is being exposed as no more than a myth.

2.) The last week in December has been revived

Though the final week of the year is not always a significant retail traffic driver, 2017’s particular calendar layout meant that the week after Christmas took on heightened importance. In fact, this year marks the first year since 2014 that one of the Top 10 Busiest Days fell after Dec. 26th, thereby extending the so-called “holiday” season.

3.) Black Friday reigned supreme (again!), followed by Super Saturday

There’s no doubt about it, Black Friday is still the busiest shopping day of the entire year. Though some retail commentators predicted that Super Saturday, and even the Friday before Christmas, would outperform Black Friday, at ShopperTrak, we weren’t buying it. Turns out, Black Friday was 2017’s biggest shopping day of the year by miles — easily surpassing any other day. That said, Super Saturday, with its close proximity to Christmas Day, came in as the 2nd busiest shopping day of the season.

4.) December Saturdays were extra important in 2017

A closer look at the time leading up to Christmas Day, this year, reveals that two different December Saturdays (12/16/17 and 12/23/17) beat last year’s Super Saturday (12/17/16). This is due primarily to the helpful calendar shifts that make up the 2017 December calendar. As we’ve discussed in previous seasonal blogs, Saturdays in December experience increasing traffic volume, in relation to their proximity to Christmas Day.  This intensity was further strengthened because of the additional Saturday that fell between Black Friday and Christmas Day.

5.) Black Friday traffic exceeded expectations

Black Friday traffic remained right in line with 2016 traffic, decreasing minimally YOY. Extended Black Friday, which is the combined period of Thanksgiving night and Black Friday, visits were down merely -1.6% YOY. Surprisingly, traffic was impressive at outlet retailers this year, beating 2016 numbers. Check out our Black Friday recap here, for more detail.

Overall, the 2017 retail holiday season results year proved to be quite promising. We’ll be back soon with a final seasonal analysis of the results from our Top 10 Busiest Shopping Days prediction – stay tuned!

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Read more posts by Brian Field

Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice 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, Brian served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. Brian 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.