Weather Impacts Super Saturday Shopping

by Brian Field on 12-22-16

Inquiries from retailers across the U.S. flooded our inboxes last week, as everyone, it seemed, wanted to know why Super Saturday shopping levels were not as high as many hoped they’d be. ShopperTrak and retailers alike were expecting a surge in traffic on Saturday, Dec. 17th, as well as higher levels of shopper visits throughout the preceding week.

Back in October, ShopperTrak dubbed Dec. 17th as 2016’s “Super Saturday” and predicted that the day would be the 4th busiest day for shopper visits during the holiday season. Our prediction on Super Saturday shopping appears to be on track — though it’s worth noting that a couple of the predicted busiest days have yet to occur.

Additionally, it appears that, as predicted, Super Saturday is on target to go down as the busiest Saturday in December. Yet, retailers should still expect to see high concentrations of shoppers during stores’ limited operating hours on Christmas Eve, and they should be aware that this Friday (23rd) and next Monday (26th) are still expected to outperform the 17th, in terms of customer traffic.

Diving into December 2016 traffic reveals that the average YOY change in shopper visit levels from Dec. 1st – 10th remains consistent with YTD average change in traffic levels. This means that YOY traffic results were relatively consistent throughout the year until December 10thThis all changed after Dec. 10th when the average YOY change in traffic levels dropped off sharply from Dec. 11 – 17th.

We speculate that the Dec. 11 – 17th drop off is due to the presence of unseasonably cold weather: during the past six years, the national average temperature for each year’s Super Saturday has remained consistent, within a range of merely a few degrees. However, this year, the national average temperature was about 38 degrees Fahrenheit, which is approximately -10 degrees lower than the average of prior five years.

The good news? Even though Super Saturday shopping levels were lower than anticipated, as the temperature rises as and we approach Christmas weekend, shopper traffic should also rise. We suspect that as the exceedingly cold weather passes, traffic levels will return to the YOY traffic change levels we saw before the low temperatures set in.

 Retails should continue to plan on Friday the 23rd, Christmas Eve, and Monday the 26th being strong brick-and-mortar traffic days by and staffing and stock their stores accordingly.

 Stay tuned by checking out our blog for updates in early January on overall 2016 holiday traffic performance.

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.