As concerns over Omicron continue to intensify, Super Saturday 2021 – the last Saturday before Christmas, which traditionally marks the end of the holiday shopping season – has come and gone. We dove into the visit data for leading malls and retailers to get a sense of how the retail sector performed despite the challenges.
Super Saturday Still Drives Visits
Despite the recent rise in COVID cases, Super Saturday still drew in crowds of last-minute shoppers. Visits were up across the board when compared with the visit average from the previous five Saturdays (the visit average from 11.6, 11.13, 11.20, 12.4, and 12.11, and excluding visits from the Saturday of Black Friday weekend).
Visits to indoor and outdoor malls were up 31.4% and 24.5%, respectively; Walmart and Target visits were up 15.9% and 29.5%, respectively; foot traffic to discount retailers was up an average of 25.2%; visits to specialty retailers Dick’s Sporting Goods and Ulta Beauty were up an average of 52.2%; and foot traffic to Gap Inc. brands Gap and Old Navy was up an average of 19.9%.
The across-the-board rise in visits on Super Saturday relative to previous Saturdays means that retail holidays still hold significance and can still draw visit surges – even in a year with an extended holiday shopping season and when COVID concerns are on the rise.
What is the Right Benchmark for Assessing Brick and Mortar Recovery?
Unsurprisingly, Super Saturday visits to every retailer analyzed were higher than in 2020, and – HomeGoods aside – visits were lower than in 2019. This pattern is similar to the pattern we saw for Black Friday this year. But looking at the bigger picture reveals some interesting insights.
With the exception of Target and Walmart – two of the retailers least affected by the pandemic – the Yo3Y visit gap was significantly smaller than the Yo2Y visit gap. HomeGoods and Ulta saw visit increases compared to 2018, visits to Ross and Burlington were more or less equal to 2018 levels, and the Yo3Y visit gap for indoor and outdoor malls was around half of their Yo2Y visit gap.
The relatively smaller Yo3Y visit gap tells us two things. First, Super Saturday this year may have been stronger than the Yo2Y comparisons indicated. And second, 2019 may have been a particularly strong year for brick and mortar retail, and so assessing the retail recovery by comparing to 2019 may be shortchanging the massive strides that offline stores have made since the beginning of year.
Omicron’s Impact Starting to Be Felt on Brick and Mortar
Still, despite the relative rise in Saturday visits, the unique circumstances of the end of the 2021 holiday season did limit the visit peaks.
Super Saturday visits are usually lower than Black Friday visits, as Black Friday discounts attract consumers shopping for themselves as well as for their friends and families, while Super Saturday’s appeal is more narrow and mostly draws shoppers completing their holiday list last minute. Still, given the recent rise in COVID cases, we expected the visit gap between Black Friday and Super Saturday to be even more significant this year, as Omicron compelled shoppers who were out and about over Black Friday to stay home over Super Saturday. And the data showed that while consumer demand held strong in some segments, Omicron’s rise is already beginning to limit the overall traffic for some categories.
Specialty stores and malls were not significantly impacted by the rising fifth COVID wave, as these categories don’t normally see large visit spikes in late December anyway. Specialty stores Ulta Beauty, Gap, and Old Navy saw visit gaps between Super Saturday and Black Friday that were slightly smaller in 2019 than in 2021 – but Dick’s saw a smaller visit gap in 2021 than in 2019. And for indoor and outdoor malls, the visit gap between Black Friday and Super Saturday was approximately the same in 2021 and in 2019.
But although specialty stores and malls were largely spared, Omicron did hit one category particularly hard – the off-price segment. Off-price brands usually see more visits in December than in November, but this year’s data indicates that Super Saturday off-price visits relative to Black Friday visits were significantly higher in 2019 than in 2021 – a clear indication of Omicron’s impact. In 2019, Super Saturday visits to T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, and Burlington were 15.9%, 25.9%, 28.8%, and 24.8% higher, respectively, than Black Friday visits that same year. But this year, Super Saturday compared to Black Friday visits were only 3.3%, 11.5%, 12.4%, and 9.5% higher, respectively, for those same brands.
Essentially, Omicron does appear to be impacting retail visits, though the effects appear to be fairly limited, especially considering the magnitude of case increases.
Will Omicron impact brick and mortar visits going into 2022?
Visit Placer.ai to find out.