December Shopping Prediction: Super Saturday Shopper Visits

by Bill McCarthy on 12-16-16

In order to predict traffic on Super Saturday accurately, it is critical is to account for the ways in which calendar shifts affect December shopping behavior.

ShopperTrak’s historical December shopping data clearly indicates a strong positive correlation between traffic levels and the calendar proximity of Super Saturday and Christmas Eve: the intensity of Super Saturday traffic increases with its proximity to Christmas Day.

This calendar proximity trend has one notable exception: it doesn’t apply when Christmas Eve falls on a Saturday. Traditionally, retailers dub the last Saturday before Christmas Eve “Super Saturday.” However, every few years, including this year, calendar shifts make this naming exercise tricky. As a result, we dubbed December 17th the “Super Saturday” of the 2016 holiday shopping season.

Looking at the calendar reveals that the last time Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday was in 2011. In years like this, traffic does not behave like it would on a “typical” Super Saturday — rather it performs as any other Christmas Eve would. In fact, traffic patterns from years like 2011 and 2016 will stand in stark contrast to years like 2012 and 2017, which will see record-setting Super Saturday traffic numbers. This is because, during 2012 and 2017, Super Saturday falls on the day before Christmas Eve, which means Super Saturday will perform exceptionally well next year.

The high number of shopper visits on Super Saturday in 2012, along with the slightly lower numbers in 2011, 2010, etc., substantiate the positive correlation between traffic levels and the calendar proximity of Super Saturday and Christmas Eve.

This year, we predict that the percentage of December traffic that Super Saturday (Dec. 17th) occupies will be similar to the 2011 levels. Further, we predict that YOY Super Saturday traffic levels will remain similar to last year’s numbers. Much like Black Friday, Super Saturday traffic levels are expected to remain flat, or fall no less than -3.5% YOY. Plus, Super Saturday is still expected to see 20-30% more traffic than any other Saturday in December 2016.

Though this year’s Super Saturday may not bring record-breaking traffic numbers, unlike most years, the following week will see unusual traffic opportunities: because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, the Friday (23rd) before and the Monday after (26th) Christmas will have stronger traffic numbers than years when Christmas Day falls on a weekday. The 23rd and the 26th are expected to see traffic levels that are nearly as high, if not higher, as those of Super Saturday itself.

A final point to keep in mind as you prepare for increased December shopping crowds is that while Christmas Eve is unlikely to ever appear among ShopperTrak’s Top 10 Busiest Days, traffic on this day does remain consistent YOY, no matter which day of the week it falls on. This pattern remains consistent because brick-and-mortar stores tend to close at similar, often earlier, times YOY on Christmas Eve – typically, 6:00 PM local time.  This is significant because general shopping behavior trends indicate that traffic begins to drop off significantly around 5:00 PM.  Whether this trend is a result of fatigue, holiday preparation, or retailer-driven mandates is open to interpretation.

Read more posts by Bill McCarthy

Bill McCarthy is the General Manager of the Americas, in which he oversees regional efforts pertaining to the Traffic Insights business unit.