When the days grow shorter and the air starts to turn chilly, retail companies prepare for their hottest time of year. As they get ready for the holiday season, retailers will do well to keep three additional factors in mind:
u Adjust for the presidential election. Typically, retailers market heavily in October and early November to drive store foot traffic as the holidays begin. Early marketing efforts, however, will not go as far this holiday season.
ShopperTrak’s analysis reveals shopping activity tends to lessen before national election days. During the 2004 presidential election, for example, retail foot traffic saw a year-over-year decline of 0.7% the week before the election and 2.2% the week of the election. Similarly, in 2008, retail foot traffic declined 3.7% the week before the presidential election and 6.3% the week of the election, when compared with the same period the year before. While economic factors account for some of these declines, especially in 2008, the data show elections do have an impact on these rates.
Retailers should plan for decreased traffic leading up to the Nov. 6 election this year and keep the marketing powder dry until after the election. Scheduling marketing efforts to coincide with when customers are ready to shop will make a bigger impact.
• Schedule against the calendar. Retailers that schedule operating hours and staff based simply on last year’s store performance and calendar will lose out this holiday season.
Movement of key shopping days on the calendar affects each season. For example, in 2010, Dec. 26 fell on Sunday, a day that generally features church service conflicts and abbreviated shopping hours. Last year, however, Dec. 26 fell on a Monday — and people who took Monday as a holiday stormed stores in record numbers. So, while Dec. 26 is often a busy day, many retailers were ill-prepared to service these additional shoppers and lost business that day.
Another casualty of calendar shift last year was the Friday and Saturday right before Christmas. Those days lost some retail steam because shoppers were more likely to stay home and begin their holiday weekend early. Dec. 17, the Saturday one week before Christmas