Retail’s Evolving Holiday Season

Over the past few years, holiday season retail patterns have undergone some major shifts. But what can retailers expect this year? 

Our latest white paper dives into the data to identify key trends that are likely to shape brick-and-mortar holiday shopping this year. Is last year’s extended retail season here to stay? If so – where does that leave Black Friday? Which categories continue to benefit most from post-Thanksgiving deal-seeking, and which can expect an influx of visits during the pre-Christmas rush? And what can retailers do to maximize their gains during these critical weeks? Below is a taste of some of our findings. For the full report, read the white paper here

Another (Somewhat) Extended Holiday Season

A look at weekly fourth-quarter foot traffic trends for the past few years shows that a version of the extended holiday shopping season first observed in 2020 may be here to stay – although not with the same magnitude as in 2021. 

In 2019, the season still followed a more traditional trajectory, with retail visits remaining relatively constant throughout October and November and spiking dramatically during Black Friday. But consumer behavior began to change in 2020, as COVID and global shutdowns led many shoppers to stay home and avoid crowded stores, which drove some retail foot traffic to earlier in the season. 

But even though shopping was more spread out in 2020, the full impact of the extended holiday season did not manifest until 2021. While the pandemic remained a significant concern last year – with the first confirmed Omicron variant case hitting the U.S. right after Thanksgiving – pent up demand and easing restrictions fueled a clear recovery pattern. At the same time, serious supply-chain disruptions gave rise to product shortages throughout the country, leading many retailers to encourage consumers to get an early start on their shopping. The combination of pent-up demand and inventory concerns pushed significant retail foot traffic into October and early November at the expense of Black Friday 2021 performance.

Now, as COVID recedes into the background, many people are more excited than ever to return to their pre-pandemic holiday routines. While online shopping has its draw, there is something both invigorating and comforting about hitting the stores when they are crowded with other shoppers exuding holiday cheer. 

Still, the 2022 holiday season faces challenges of its own, with consumers ranking high prices and budgetary constraints as one of their leading concerns. And despite reports that inflation has begun to cool off more than expected, the consumer price index remains up 7.7% for the year ending this October. At the same time, many retailers have begun offering steep pre-Black Friday discounts, in an effort to quickly move excess inventory, which is driving some shoppers to visit stores earlier in the year – though not to the same extent as in 2021.  

For more insights into what retailers can expect this holiday season, read the full white paper here.

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