Holiday sales: The best is yet to come

A quarter of all holiday sales happen in the two weeks before Christmas.

A quarter of all holiday sales happen in the two weeks before Christmas.

In a previous post, we shared some interesting data and insights on Black Friday shopping and how it’s one of the most active shopping days for small businesses. While Small Business Saturday was still a significant sales day for Main Street businesses, Black Friday still reigns supreme for big and small retailers alike.

Now, many business owners may be feeling like they missed the boat because their Black Friday weekend sales were a little lackluster, but the best is yet to come. In fact, the best sales weeks and days are still ahead for small businesses across America.

27% of holiday sales happen in two weeks

While Black Friday weekend accounts for about 10% of holiday sales, it is only the start of the season. Visa analyzed purchases and shopping behavior from last year, and they found 27.1% of all holiday shopping happened in the two weeks before Christmas.

Another way to look at that: more than 1-in-4 shoppers will be buying gifts in the two weeks leading up to Christmas, and the closer they get to the big day, the more likely they are to visit your store. This is great news for local business owners (not just retailers, but restaurants and most other local business services).

The Top Three Holiday Sales Days (According to Visa)

  1. Black Friday
  2. December 23
  3. Christmas Eve & December 22 (tie)

This aligns pretty well with our holiday sales analysis for small business retailers. As a recap, we found that the top days last year were:

  1. Black Friday, when sales spiked 77%
  2. December 23, with a 48% bump
  3. Small Business Saturday, with a 38% lift

In fact, Black Friday was the top sales day for retailers in every state except Maine, but December 23 was almost as routinely the second-highest day. (Take a look at the top holiday sales days for your state.) So, there’s plenty of time left for Main Street businesses to have a holly jolly holiday.

Why is this good news for local shops?

The closer we get to Christmas, the less shoppers buy online and the more they shop locally. Whether they procrastinate or struggle to find the right gift, a significant portion of holiday shoppers postpone their purchasing. The good news is that the longer they wait to shop, the better it is for you. While many factors drive this behavior, a few of them specifically benefit local businesses.

Nostalgia, tradition, and desperation

Whether it is their family tradition, good old-fashioned desperation, or the nostalgia of walking the decorated streets of their hometown, people like to shop locally in the days just before Christmas. Consumer Reports suggests nearly 10% of consumers will be shopping on Christmas Eve. Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same: late-season shoppers buy locally.

Logistics

Shipping logistics closer to Christmas also factor in shopper behavior. Even with services like Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping, not all regions can support the influx of parcels to process, and nobody wants their gifts to arrive late. Shipping logistics influence buying behavior and drive sales more at a local level than online with Christmas around the corner. In fact, where sales skyrocket for local business owners, it plummets for online commerce.

User guidance

One of the most common frustrations around gift giving is the inability to find the right gift. Is it what their kid described? Is it going to function in a way the recipient will like? Is it even the right product to begin with? This problem ranges from parents buying gifts for their kids to boyfriends buying gifts for their girlfriend’s parents. Shoppers don’t just want help buying gifts; they need it. For some purchases, buying sight-unseen isn’t an option.

While reviews and product descriptions are the first destination for the modern shopper, it’s just that: the first of many stops in their purchase journey. Shoppers want to be able to get the nuanced answers they can’t get from a review. You know your store and the use-case of the products you carry, and if you don’t have the answer, there is a good chance one of your employees does. You are an invaluable resource for the gift-giver. The best part: you’re already in the shop and readily available to your customers.

Be ready for last-minute shoppers

There are several things local shops can do to prepare and win big this season. Here are a few ideas:

Be gift card ready, especially restaurants and food & beverage stores

Last minute shoppers are notorious for defaulting to the gift card. Maybe they thought they’d find inspiration throughout the season or they just forgot to grab something for their company gift exchange. Fact remains that 3 out of 5 of these late shoppers will turn to gift cards, and if you don’t offer something, they’re likely going to default to an Amazon or big-box retailers.

Gift cards may not be the coolest gift idea, but they are more financially beneficial for small businesses than a product purchase. The vast majority of gift card recipients will spend an extra 38% beyond the value of the card.

Why is this important to restaurants and the food industry? Because they are the #1 benefactor of gift card purchases as 34.8% of gift cards are for restaurants. Department and retails stores come in at a close second at 34.4%.

Most importantly: be where they’re looking

If there is one thing you should do, even this late in the season, it is that you make it easy for shoppers to find you. The number of shoppers doing local searches before entering a business is quickly growing. Three out of four people (75%) who search for something nearby using their smartphone end up visiting that store within a day and nearly a third of those visits result in a purchase.

Secondly, make sure your information on sites like Yelp, Google, Facebook, OpenTable, and TripAdvisor is accurate and that the reviews shoppers see support and reflect your business properly. If your online reputation is weak or non-existent, you will miss out on the best holiday sales. Don’t let unmanaged reviews be the reason shoppers overlooked your business this holiday season.