As Christmas draws closer, European retailers are facing a critical time. Stores are pulling out all the stops to win every possible sale, as customers flock in with lengthy shopping lists. The prize is worth all that effort: It’s estimated by Statista.com that Christmas shopping is worth £273 billion to the European retail sector.
However, there are cultural differences across the continent that will directly affect traffic, as well as retailers’ chances to capitalise on shopper needs. To get a clear picture of how festive shopping patterns vary from country to country, ShopperTrak looked at when Christmas store traffic across Europe peaked in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Black Friday stirs France, Germany and the UK into action
With Black Friday now established as a promotional event in many European countries, the Christmas rush into stores begins early for a number of retailers. Traffic data from last year confirms that France, the UK and Germany were the quickest to get the bauble rolling over Black Friday weekend.
However, although Black Friday weekend signals the Christmas shopping start point, there are some fascinating anomalies across Europe in terms of when shoppers in different countries get serious about their gift buying. Traffic analysis shows that German consumers are likely to spread their shopping across the month, with traffic peaking on Saturdays. Meanwhile UK shoppers leave things to the last minute, which causes retail traffic to soar in the final few days before Christmas Day. In fact, December 23rd has been the UK’s busiest shopping day of the season for the past three years.
Don’t underestimate the power of Super Saturday
Retailers are wise to take their place at the ultimate sales feast, Super Saturday. This is the final Saturday before Christmas. Last year, it proved to be the busiest Christmas shopping day for both France and Germany, and the 3rd busiest day in the UK.
New Year sales keep the seasonal party going
For some regions, the holiday shopping opportunity does not peak before Christmas, but extends into January. French retailers’ much-loved winter sale, les soldes d’hiver, gives traffic in the first half of January a hearty boost. Our data shows that Friday 9th January took the crown for France’s busiest Christmas season shopping day in 2016/2017, and Friday 10th January was the number one Christmas shopping day in 2015/2016. Meanwhile, Spanish consumers love to shop during the weekend after New Year’s Day, with Saturday 7th January being the busiest shopping day of the Christmas holiday season in 2016/2017.
Get set for the Christmas action
For European retailers, it pays to be prepared for all of these bonanza shopping days, and to use traffic insights from previous years to perfect this year’s offer. For example, if there were problems coping with the flow of customers through stores and checkouts last year, what measures are in place to ease this year’s congestion? How can store managers mobilise their teams to make best use of the quieter days that fall between the peaks?
Getting the basics right will make hectic days easier to manage, meaning sales won’t be lost along the way. Having the correct number of sales assistants in place during the peaks is essential, as is being sure that stock will cover demand, and customer services — such as, click-and-collect — are running smoothly.
Festive footfall patterns tend to follow the same trends year on year, helping retailers to deliver great experiences at this important time in the retail calendar. But as our data shows, shoppers in each country do behave differently.
For retailers with a presence in multiple countries this means operational planning must be adapted accordingly, to maximise every sales opportunity across the physical estate. And regardless of where stores are being run, the more knowledge of seasonal shopper behaviour retailers can delve into, the more rewarding this wonderful time of year can be.