Black Friday is the top holiday sales day for small retailers, too

It might seem like e-commerce giants like Amazon are eating the world, but guess what? About 90% of all global sales still happen in physical, brick-and-mortar stores. People still like to see and touch what they buy, and that’s a good thing for small, independent retailers this holiday season.

So, when should your shop be open to take full advantage of the holiday spending stampede? If you didn’t know, Womply curates transaction data for 4 million U.S. small businesses, so we have a pretty amazing view on consumer spending on Main Street. We analyzed sales at about 65,000 small, local retailers during the 2016 holiday season to see when your shop should expect sales to peak this year.

First, let’s talk about our approach and then we’ll share the results. Our data science team found the average daily revenue for local retail businesses for November, December, and January last holiday season. Then, we charted how average sales changed on a daily basis against that baseline. The result: we learned which days your business should be open, fully staffed, and heavily promoting to maximize your cut of the holiday pie.

Now, the findings. The 3 biggest sales days for local retailers last year were:

  1. Black Friday, when sales were 77% higher than usual
  2. December 23, when sales were up 48%
  3. Small Business Saturday, when sales climbed 38%

Take a look at the whole season on this chart:

Black Friday vs. Small Business Saturday

It’s interesting that Black Friday, which is a major marketing push from big-box retailers, is benefitting independent retailers, too. The reason is likely because Black Friday has become a well-established tradition that gets people out of their homes and into a shopping mindset. Plenty of people would rather patronize local retailers with unique offerings than fight over doorbuster deals with ravenous crowds at Walmart, Target, or Best Buy.

What about Small Business Saturday? The event, which is trademarked by American Express, immediately follows Black Friday and certainly benefits from the spillover of Black Friday. People are still in the shopping mood, and often families are together for the Thanksgiving holiday and want to spend time together on the town. Sales also spike on this day thanks to concerted efforts to rally consumers who support the “shop local” movement.

The main takeaway is your shop should absolutely be open in the days following Thanksgiving, and definitely on Black Friday. Staff accordingly, and run your own promotions to make sure people know you’re open and offering incentives.

We ran the numbers for all 50 states, as well, and found that Black Friday was the top sales day in every state except Maine, where Small Business Saturday won out. In fact, in some cases sales doubled for Main Street retailers on Black Friday.

Last-minute shoppers

The only magical thing about December 23 is it’s late in the shopping season, and people procrastinate. If you run a small retail shop, you need to be open in the days before the Christmas holiday. As Santa’s big day grows closer and closer, the sense of dread also expands for folks whose gift lists have way too many unchecked boxes. Be there to save them, and benefit from their last-minute panic.

In general, we saw that holiday sales peaked in the days after Thanksgiving and spiked modestly every weekend thereafter before hitting a second crescendo right before Christmas. In other words, people come out of the gates strong and then hit the afterburners again right before crossing the finish line.

Extra credit: Our holiday sales data was featured on Bloomberg Radio’s Small Business Report! Check it out here.

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