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Three Surprising Holiday Shopping Trends

Lila Margalit
November 21, 2023
Three Surprising Holiday Shopping Trends

From the extension of Black Friday promotions to the growing importance of secondary retail milestones, the holiday season has undergone significant changes in recent years. So with Thanksgiving upon us, we dove into the data to explore some of the more surprising holiday shopping trends that emerged in 2022.  

1. Holiday Shopping Patterns are Highly Regional

Perhaps most strikingly, location intelligence reveals significant differences in holiday shopping patterns between different areas of the country. Black Friday is important everywhere – but the extent of the retail holiday’s impact on store visitation differs considerably across regions. Analyzing visits to retailers in multiple categories shows that Black Friday visit spikes are consistently most pronounced in the Midwest – and least prominent out West. Sporting goods retailers in Western states, for example, drew 225.7% more visits on November 25th, 2022 than they did, on average, throughout the rest of the year. But in the Midwest, the same segment drew a whopping 383.7% more visits on Black Friday than its 2022 daily average. Similar patterns emerged for other major holiday-driven categories and retailers, like indoor malls, apparel stores, and Target.

December 23rd, on the other hand – fondly known as “Christmas Eve Eve” – draws the biggest visit spikes in the South and West, and the smallest ones by far in the Midwest. In the South and West, for example, the apparel category drew 162.6% and 143.7% more visits, respectively, on December 23rd, 2022 than it did, on average, throughout the rest of the year – compared to just 66.8% more visits in the Midwest. And while Christmas Eve Eve was the second or third-busiest day of the year for apparel retailers in most of the country, it ranked an uninspiring 30th in the Midwest. Midwesterners, it would seem, really like getting their holiday shopping done early – and don’t do a lot of last-minute gift buying.

2. Boxing Day is Becoming a Thing

Foot traffic data also highlights the surprising importance of Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) for the U.S. holiday season. Americans haven’t started driving on the left side of the road, and Marmite has yet to make a real appearance on the U.S. food scene. But Boxing Day – the feudal alms-giving-holiday-turned-retail-bonanza celebrated in the U.K. and Canada – seems to be making its way Stateside. 

While Boxing Day has yet to become a local American tradition, location intelligence indicates that December 26th may be gaining traction – particularly for pricier categories. Luxury retailers and electronics stores, for example, drew their second-biggest crowds of the year on December 26th, 2022, smaller only than those seen on Black Friday. Indoor malls were also bustling on the day after Christmas, with crowds nearly as big as those seen on Super Saturday (the last Saturday before Christmas) – the second-most popular day for mall hopping. 

Non-off-price apparel stores, off-price retailers, and superstores also experienced significant visit bumps on Boxing Day, though for these retailers December 26th didn’t rank among the top five shopping days of the year. And whether driven by individuals eager to exchange unwanted gifts immediately following the holiday, or by people seeking to indulge themselves with newly-acquired gift cards, Boxing Day presents retailers with an important opportunity to move product. 

3. Christmas Eve and Super Saturday are Dollar Store Days

Offering everything from groceries to inexpensive toys and home decor, dollar stores have emerged in recent years as prime destinations for cash-strapped consumers seeking to cut costs. And though not classically associated with holiday shopping, foot traffic data shows that the segment experiences important visit spikes in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2022, the two busiest days of the year for the category were Super Saturday and Christmas Eve, with visits 88.9% and 88.0% higher, respectively, than an average day of the year.

But drilling down deeper into the data for leading Discount & Dollar chains uncovers an interesting divide between Family Dollar and Dollar General on the one hand, and Five Below on the other. For Dollar General and Family Dollar – both of which emphasize essential items and carry particular appeal for less-affluent audiences – 2022’s busiest day of the year was Christmas Eve. People likely flocked to these chains just before Christmas to pick up last-minute ingredients or find bargain stocking stuffers for loved ones. Five Below, on the other hand, which caters to wealthier consumers and offers more recreational items – was much busier on Super Saturday, when the chain experienced a dramatic visit peak. Dollar Tree, for its part, fell somewhere in the middle – with its busiest day on Super Saturday, but a Christmas Eve visit bump that was not far behind.

Key Takeaways

The holiday shopping frenzy drives traffic to retailers across categories, offering chains a prime opportunity to make sales and attract new customers. But not all retailers experience the season’s milestones in the same way. Location intelligence can uncover up-and-coming trends as they emerge and can offer granular insight into the unique holiday shopping patterns that characterize different categories, chains, and regions of the country. 

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