How to Prepare for the 10 Busiest Holiday Shopping Days

By Bill Martin, ShopperTrak Founder

The ShopperTrak holiday forecast for increased sales and foot traffic should encourage retailers. Our analysis suggests the 38 shopping days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — coupled with two “extra” weekends — will contribute to a strong shopping season.

To recap the forecast:

  • National retail sales, when compared with the same period last year, will rise 3.3.3% during the peak holiday shopping months of November and December.
  • Retail foot traffic will increase 2.8% during the holiday season.

Within the holiday season, the 10 busiest shopping days are critical. Last year’s 10 busiest days accounted for more than one-third (36.5%) of general merchandise, apparel, furniture and other products (GAFO) sales in November and December. These days, alone, generated a 3.7% increase in total GAFO retail sales over 2010.

Of course, customers don’t just hand over money. Retailers must earn these extra sales. They should prepare for the extra costs of maintaining longer store hours across more days. Store operations will need to run smoothly if they want to seize this opportunity to convert more browsers into buyers. Retailers can take the following steps to prepare for these extra days:

Schedule labor wisely. Because the calendar shifts each year, retailers can’t plan their operations and marketing within a purely historical framework. They must consider the idiosyncrasies of this year’s holiday calendar. Last year, for instance, Dec. 26 last year was an unusually busy shopping day because it fell on a Monday, a day that many people added to the Christmas weekend and used for gift exchanges and more shopping. This year, Dec. 26 falls on a Wednesday, pulling many people back into the office and away from stores. Retailers need to optimize staffing, marketing and advertising with the current calendar in mind.

Know your data. Understanding foot traffic and its relation to sales allows retailers to acquire the shopper conversion rates for their individual stores. Using that unique information helps each retailer make better decisions for his or her own operation. Increasing the average conversion rate by just a point or two can add significantly to the bottom line at the end of the season.  

Prepare for the “morning after.” The run-up to the presidential election temporarily distracts shoppers. Regardless of the winner, retailers should anticipate an influx of shoppers and be ready to respond with optimal marketing and operations. Black Friday presents another “morning after” opportunity. Retailers must prepare for the busiest shopping day of the year by staffing appropriately, ensuring proper merchandising and intensifying their marketing efforts.

This unusually long season presents retailers with opportunities and challenges. Retailers need to understand and manage their store foot traffic and focus on increasing shopper conversion rates to improve sales. The busiest days of this holiday shopping season will offer a test to retailers that they are now equipped to pass.

The following shows ShopperTrak’s forecasted busiest holiday sales and traffic days:

Sales Rank Traffic Rank
1 1 Friday, Nov. 23  (Black Friday)
2 2   Saturday, Dec. 22 (Super Saturday)
3 3 Saturday, Dec. 15
4 8 Friday, Dec. 21
5 6 Sunday,  Dec. 23
6 4 Saturday, Dec. 8
7 5 Wednesday, Dec. 26 (Day after Christmas)
8 7 Saturday,  Nov. 24 (Black Saturday)
9 - Thursday, Dec. 20
10 - Saturday, Dec. 29
- 9 Sunday, Dec. 16
- 10 Saturday, Dec. 1

Bill Martin is the founder and executive VP of ShopperTrak, a leading retail shopper counting company. Find out more at

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