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Black Friday's Mid Year Rival?

Ethan Chernofsky
June 20, 2019
Black Friday's Mid Year Rival?

Each year, the top retailers in the US eagerly prepare for the winter holiday season and the shopping boon it creates. But while Black Friday and a series of sales before and after Christmas dominate the end of year retail calendar, there are other opportunities that top sellers look to capitalize on.

Enter Memorial Day, a three day weekend that many retailers leverage to drive sales before the summer season kicks off.

So who benefitted from Memorial Day in 2019, and how did the long weekend compare to other key shopping periods? We dove into the location analytics of several top retailers to find out.

Comparing Peaks

Looking at foot traffic data from top retailers, it is clear that the peak of Black Friday can hardly be matched by any other day of the year. Analyzing the year of foot traffic for Nike from June 2018 through May 2019 showed a Black Friday peak that was 335.9% higher than the baseline for the period.

However, the incredible Black Friday peak was mitigated by the length of the Memorial Day period. When comparing the top three days around Black Friday to the three highest traffic days of Memorial Day Weekend, the traffic difference is only 14% higher in November. This speaks to the tremendous spring time opportunity the sportswear giant leveraged.

For the GAP, Black Friday weekend outperformed Memorial Day Weekend by just under 18%, while American Eagle’s Black Friday visits were 16% higher than Memorial Day Weekend. Yet, these ‘reductions’ still speak to a significant mid-year retail opportunity that these brands availed themselves of. Incredibly, outside of the holiday peak, no other period provided the same retail opportunity as Memorial Day Weekend for these apparel giants.

Missing Out on Memorial Day

But as interesting as the brands who leveraged the long weekend to drive in-store visits were those that invested little. Best Buy, one of the brands that truly dominates Black Friday and the winter holiday season saw only minor increases on Memorial Day Weekend that barely register compared to the company’s massive winter successes.

Target, another brand known for capitalizing on Black Friday and the pre-Christmas build up also saw a Memorial Day weekend pass with little fanfare. The Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend did bring in 25.4% more visits than the baseline for the 12 months between June 2018 and May 2019, but the Sunday and Monday that followed brought increases of only 5.6% and 0.6% respectively.

Just For Apparel?

The question that arises is whether Memorial Day is just for apparel.

Yet, other top non-apparel brands have shown that this is hardly the case. Over the three day weekend, Apple Stores saw visits rise 95.9% for Saturday, 47.8% for Sunday and 75.2% for Monday above their baseline for the period between June 2018 and May 2019. Showing that a technology retailer can break into this retail haven.

Why Does It Matter?

The ultimate goal of any retailer is to drive sales and one of the most effective ways of doing so is leveraging 'holidays'. While Best Buy has been a dominant player in the Black Friday sweepstakes, they have yet to maximize the potential to drive peaks elsewhere in the year. Must Memorial Day be limited to apparel players? Couldn’t a giant like Best Buy or Target find an angle to drive interest and in-store engagement?

Learning to more effectively utilize the full calendar is going to be a key barometer for offline retailers to drive sustained success. The brands that can turn off periods into opportunities are those that may have the best chance of creating success in a changing retail landscape.

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