Report: Five Insights about the Shifting Retail Calendar

by Brian Field on 09-26-16

This year, Hanukkah and Christmas Eve both fall on the last Saturday before Christmas, dubbed Super Saturday, which is likely to have a dramatic impact on traffic on that day.

That’s according to ShopperTrak, a leading global provider of consumer behavior insights and location-based analytics. “Any holiday or retailer-specific event that moves around the calendar will result in yearly changes in customer traffic patterns, which in turn will impact sales,” said Brian Field, senior director of advisory services at ShopperTrak, “Retailers easily can turn this potential pitfall into a revenue generator with some advanced planning. Those that are not already monitoring these shifts should consider getting onboard.”

ShopperTrak offered the following retail calendar insights to help you understand and capitalize on yearly nuances:

  1. Research calendar shifts and historical traffic trends. Looking at past calendar shifts and their impact on traffic and sales is an incredibly important part of the planning process and a multi-year analysis will help retailers identify patterns.For instance, in 2016 Christmas Day falls on a Sunday. Will shoppers be more likely to take off from work on Friday or Monday? Historical data and analysis can help retailers predict and determine whether or not to staff up on Friday based on past behaviors. Analyzing prior weather events and looking at future forecasts also can be informative when scheduling employees or planning promotions.
  1. Be aware of unique situations. This year, the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve both fall on the last Saturday before Christmas – traditionally dubbed Super Saturday. This will likely have a dramatic impact on traffic and sales that day. Retailers need to prepare for the possibility that Super Saturday will instead shift to Dec. 17, as Dec. 24 may not attract the expected level of traffic. Appropriate levels of staffing will be critical – overstaffing chips away at the bottom line but under-staffing can drive away sales and hurt a store’s reputation.
  1. Adjust expectations based on landmark dates. Each year, important selling dates shift, sometimes with minimal change and other times more significantly. For instance, this year Hanukkah begins two weeks later than it did in 2015, which means the second half of December could generate more meaningful sales opportunities.Similarly, Easter 2017 will be about three weeks later than in 2016, providing more promotional opportunities that should be planned for accordingly.
  1. Outline the different types of shifts. Holidays such as Easter Sunday, which move the holiday week but not the day (it is always on Sunday), will have more of an impact on the overall week, as well as the weeks before and after. Retailers need to examine this shift from one period to another on an annual basis to determine how Easter in March differs from Easter in April.On the other hand, when the day of the week changes, such as July 4 moving from a Monday to a Tuesday, the issue is determining what days would be designated as the holiday observance day. For example, when Christmas Day falls on a Wednesday, it is less likely that a shopper will have an extended weekend off for celebrating or shopping, which will certainly impact traffic size.
  1. Plan for the 53-week year. Fiscal year 2017 will be a 53-week year, as opposed to the normal 52-week year, which will impact how comparisons are made and reported out.

Many retailers follow the NRF recommendation, which aligns the weeks based upon date proximity, while others choose their own methods. In both cases, the best practice is to determine the one, ideal, method for aligning the calendar for all three years (pre-53 week year, 53-week year, post-53 week year) well in advance so that all goals and objectives are consistent.

A version of this article was originally published in Chain Store Age.

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.