Mapping the re­tail holiday sales cal­en­dar...

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Re­tail­ers don’t want to miss any op­por­tu­nity to do more than reg­u­lar busi­ness, so a lot of fo­cus to­day is on plan­ning for those spe­cial oc­ca­sions that bring in shop­pers – be it Valen­tine, Easter, Mother’s Day or Fourth of July. Holiday cal­en­dars are pre­pared in ad­vance and strate­gies built on how to woo cus­tomers, both off­line and on­line. Th­ese hol­i­days have fur­ther gained sig­nif­i­cance as re­tail sen­ti­ments have been down over the last few years, and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to im­prove sales is a mat­ter to re­joice. This year too, holiday sales have at­tracted a lot of at­ten­tion and the big pos­i­tive is that the sales have been very good on th­ese spe­cial days so far and the in­dus­try is see­ing this as an in­di­ca­tion of how the next 6 months of the year will play out.

The big­gest holiday sea­son, of course, is Christ­mas and the sales last Christ­mas have re­ally set the tone for re­tail re­cov­ery in 2018. After analysing con­sumer spend­ing at more than 1.3 mil­lion mer­chant lo­ca­tions in the US over the holiday shop­ping sea­son, First Data re­vealed it was the strong­est in four years. Over­all growth for the en­tire holiday sea­son was up 6.2% from the pre­vi­ous year, which was at 4.7%. Sig­nif­i­cantly, brick-and-mor­tar fared bet­ter in av­er­age ticket sales, go­ing up by 1.9% while e-com­merce was down by 2.1%. Jan­uary is usu­ally a mod­est month for re­tail, as shop­pers have had their fill dur­ing the holiday sea­sons, though the month has two sig­nif­i­cant dates that call for cel­e­bra­tion – New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day.

This year, sales at US re­tail­ers fell by 0.3% in Jan­uary – the big­gest drop in almost a year, whip­ping out in­crease in sales in December. Many an­a­lysts feel that de­spite the drop, the signs are pos­i­tive. “I sus­pect that the Jan­uary weak­ness re­flects in part the ter­ri­ble weather dur­ing the month,” said Chief Economist Stephen Stan­ley of Amherst Pier­pont Se­cu­ri­ties.

Added Stuart Hoff­man, Se­nior Eco­nomic Ad­viser at PNC Fi­nan­cial Ser­vices, “This is a tem­po­rary pause in con­sumer spend­ing fol­low­ing a strong holiday sales sea­son.” Both pre­dicted stronger sales for Fe­bru­ary. No doubt, Fe­bru­ary is an in­ter­est­ing month for re­tail­ers, as love is in the air. Of all the hol­i­days that fall in Fe­bru­ary – in­clud­ing Ground­hog Day, Pres­i­dent’s Day, and Lu­nar New Year – Valen­tine’s Day is ar­guably the most im­por­tant for any re­tailer. The NRF re­ported that Valen­tine’s Day, which ranks be­hind the Christ­mas holiday, Mother’s Day and Easter in terms of spend­ing, will see spend­ing in ap­parel of around US $ 1.9 bil­lion on Valen­tine Day. Ap­parel ac­counts for 17% of es­ti­mated sec­tor spend­ing dur­ing this sea­son of love.

How­ever, in spite of solid hir­ing dy­nam­ics and con­sumer sen­ti­ment at a near two-decade high, re­tail sales dis­ap­pointed in Fe­bru­ary, as re­tail sales fell 0.1% in month-on-month terms, well be­low mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions of a 0.4% in­crease for the month. In an­nual terms, growth in re­tail sales edged up marginally to 4.0% in Fe­bru­ary from an up­wardly re­vised 3.9% in­crease recorded in Jan­uary (pre­vi­ously re­ported: +3.6% yearon-year). An­nual av­er­age re­tail sales growth was down a notch to 4.4% in Fe­bru­ary, be­low 4.5% in Jan­uary. Al­though con­sumers seemed to have had a weak start to the year, the late dis­burse­ment of in­come tax re­funds was ex­pected to shore up sales in March which sig­ni­fies First Day of Spring and off­sets some of the soft­ness ob­served in Jan­uary and Fe­bru­ary. Just like Jan­uary, March can’t boast a great num­ber of hol­i­days, but St. Pa­trick’s Day – an Ir­ish-turned-in­ter­na­tional holiday, an ideal time for so­cial get-to­geth­ers, is con­sid­ered an un­tapped pot of gold for re­tail­ers. The month did not dis­ap­point and re­tail sales ex­panded 0.6% in month-on-month terms in March, re­bound­ing from Fe­bru­ary’s 0.1% fall and beat­ing mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions of a 0.4% ex­pan­sion, though cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories stores re­ported lower sales.

If there’s one holiday that the month of April is known, it is the April Fool’s

May is the month of M’s: Me­mo­rial Day and Mother’s Day, both fall in May, the former mark­ing the un­of­fi­cial be­gin­ning of sum­mer. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of th­ese hol­i­days, re­tail­ers start of­fer­ing dis­counts, of­fers and spe­cial sales. This month is also spe­cial for green-minded shops and cus­tomers, as Earth Day is cel­e­brated and greater em­pha­sis is made for stock­ing up re­us­able and re­cy­cled prod­ucts.

Day – high time for jokes, prank calls and party gifts. This year Easter also fell on the first of April, which saw spend­ing of around US $ 18.2 bil­lion this year, almost on par from a record US $ 18.4 bil­lion in 2017. Over­all, re­tail sales ex­panded 0.3% over the pre­vi­ous month and cloth­ing and ac­ces­sories stores ex­pe­ri­enced a re­bound in sales. An­nual av­er­age re­tail sales growth was steady at 4.4% in April. De­spite weaker sales growth com­pared to March, the April data sug­gests re­tail sales could con­tinue to firm up in the sec­ond quar­ter, sup­ported by ris­ing wages and tax re­funds.

May is the month of M’s: Me­mo­rial Day and Mother’s Day, both fall in May, the former mark­ing the un­of­fi­cial be­gin­ning of sum­mer. Tak­ing ad­van­tage of th­ese hol­i­days, re­tail­ers start of­fer­ing dis­counts, of­fers and spe­cial sales. This month is also spe­cial for green-minded shops and cus­tomers, as Earth Day is cel­e­brated and greater em­pha­sis is made for stock­ing up re­us­able and re­cy­cled prod­ucts. Not to for­get the re­tail op­por­tu­ni­ties that Su­per Bowl, the an­nual cham­pi­onship of the Na­tional Foot­ball League, which has achieved cult-like sta­tus in the US, pro­vides to re­tail­ers. Though data for ac­tual spend­ing May is still not avail­able, NRF pre­dicts that for only the sec­ond time in 15 years, to­tal re­tail spend­ing for Mother’s Day this year is es­ti­mated to ex­ceed US $ 23 bil­lion.

Only five months have gone and many more spe­cial days lie ahead. With June, sum­mer is at the doorstep and while May was largely about Mother’s Day, June is all about proud dads. For peo­ple who en­joy sun and out­doors ac­tiv­i­ties, July marks the start of out­door ac­tiv­i­ties like swim­ming, pic­nics, bar­be­cue. July is the time for proud Amer­i­cans to cel­e­brate In­de­pen­dence Day, with many pro­mo­tions, spe­cial deals and dis­counts on of­fer, across many cat­e­gories.

Sep­tem­ber is the be­gin­ning of a new sea­son and peo­ple in the US look for­ward to say farewell to sum­mer with Au­tumn pur­chases. Labour Day, which falls on the first Mon­day of Sep­tem­ber, is the un­of­fi­cial start of the Fall. Oc­to­ber en­joys pop­u­lar­ity as the month of Hal­loween. Scary masks, cos­tumes, haunted homes and creepy props US – Hal­loween is a field day for all re­tail­ers sell­ing spooky things. In Novem­ber, the prepa­ra­tions for X-mas start in earnest. Other than that, there’s Veteran’s Day, Thanks­giv­ing, and of course, Black Fri­day and Cy­ber Mon­day when shop­pers go crazy on deals!

From time im­memo­rial, hol­i­days have been a rea­son for busi­nesses around the world to pep up…; ob­vi­ously be­cause hol­i­days are a time when busi­nesses can bet­ter cater to their client base and im­prove foot­fall.

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