Previously we’ve shared some insights on Black Friday shopping and how it’s one of the most active shopping days for small businesses. While Small Business Saturday is becoming a very 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 fear not… 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. Before the “COVID era,” Visa analyzed purchases and shopping behavior, 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. We found that the top days typically are:
- 1. Black Friday, when sales spike 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. 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 typically shop on Christmas Eve. Whatever the reason, the outcome is the same: late-season shoppers buy locally.
Logistics and the COVID-19 pandemic can be a mixed blessing for local sales
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made things even crazier, both for local shops and for online sales. Hardly anyone will guarantee shipping within a set period, and if they do, it’ll likely be with a lot of disclaimers about supply chain problems, weather-related slowdowns, difficulty filling key positions, etc. so they can have an excuse to not fulfill your order quite when you expected it.
This crazy employment situation is also having a huge impact on local retailers, restaurants, and shops, because it’s harder than ever to hire extra help for the holiday rush. Whether from fear of COVID or from a lack of potential employees to hire, it’s unclear exactly why this is such a problem, but the fact remains that the holiday sales season is very unpredictable in the time of the pandemic.
How can gig workers, Uber drivers, contractors, and the self-employed benefit from the holiday sales season?
Uber and Lyft drivers can make each holiday shopping trip or night out just a little more special by offering special perks, like Christmas-themed treats or small gifts to their riders, and playing holiday music in their cars. You may even consider warm-spice-scented air fresheners or holiday lights in your car to make it extra special.
These efforts can add up to higher recommendations/reviews for you, as well as an increase in tips. Plus the increase in local foot traffic, bar patrons, and restaurant diners means more people looking for Uber and Lyft rides. Also, the shortage of drivers during the pandemic means that prices have increased and that means more bank for you if you choose to drive during one of the most lucrative periods of the year for app-based drivers.
For freelancers, gig-workers, and the self-employed, the holidays can be huge business or it may be somewhat slow, depending on your industry. Lots of larger companies have a slowdown in the week or so closing in on Christmas, and many shut down almost completely during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. So getting a freelance writing job might not be easy during that time.
On the other hand, some companies take this “slower” period to reset and plan for the coming year, and getting ahead on content writing, front end developing, graphic design, marketing forecasts, video content creation, etc. may be just what they’re looking for. If you feel like you want to get a lot done during the holiday season, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to do so if you find the right jobs.
User guidance from informed staff and/or online reviews is a key benefit expected by local shoppers
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. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!