Preparing for Peak Part 1: Ghosts of Christmas’ Past

5 October, 2018

Digital Marketing By Laura Lane

It’s estimated that British families will spend an average £821.25 on gifts, food and drink and decorations during the Christmas season, some 50% more than families in continental Europe! And it shows. Almost a third of retailers say roughly half of their yearly sales occur during the Christmas peak season, with 16% saying it accounts for more than 60%. Across all categories, the opportunity for retailers, brands and sellers to cash in on Christmas is vast. 

In this three part blog series we’ll explore how retailers in the U.K should be planning for peak, from analysing data performance to promotions, dynamic pricing and listings, through to stock management, fulfilment and returns.

Riding the Mini Peaks

In collaboration with Retail Gazette, we polled 194 retailers across the U.K to understand their peak performance, approach to planning and strategies for this year – the results are in. Over a fifth of retailers start their peak planning immediately after Christmas (Jan-March), on the flip-side 16% wait until September or later to get peak ready.

And when it comes to biggest sales day, 44% said their top sales day fell over the Black Friday weekend with 35% reporting Black Friday itself as the peak day. Whereas, 30% flagged the last Saturday before Christmas as their busiest day.

But it’s not just Black Friday you need to be aware of, it’s important to consider leveraging the many mini-peaks leading up to the main event. It’s a crucial time to test promotions, engage with customers and provide them with a positive experience that could put you top of their Christmas list, think about:

Halloween (31st October)

No longer synonymous with dodgy homemade costumes made from your mum’s bed sheet, Halloween has become big business. It was estimated that Brits spent a whopping £320 million on Halloween last year, up 3.2% on the previous year. It’s not just one for the kids. Millennials are some of the biggest Halloween spenders, from costumes to party decorations, tasty treats and games, there’s plenty of opportunity to have a happy halloween.

Bonfire Night (5th November)

Remember, remember the 5th of November, jacket potatoes, sparklers and hot chocolate (okay, it doesn’t quite rhyme!) Perhaps not top of mind when you think about seasonal spending but there’s plenty of evidence that shows Brits are prepared to fork out for treats on Guy Fawkes Night, is this something you could leverage in your seasonal strategy?

Singles Day (11th November)

Growing in prominence and reach is China’s famous Singles Day — the 24-hour November shopping extravaganza that hit $25 billion in global sales last year. And that was just for activity on Alibaba’s platforms. Across all major marketplaces, same-day sales have been said to reach $40 billion. Even if you’re not participating in the actual Alibaba-sponsored event, there will be plenty of opportunities to reach Chinese consumers who spend big on U.K exports and make the most out of the halo effect.

Black Friday and Cyber Weekend (23rd November – 26th November)

The most popular export from the US since the Kardashians and the Big Mac, this discount day is now a firm fixture on the U.K retail landscape. But did you know only 1% of shoppers claim they start their Christmas shopping on Black Friday itself? Almost two thirds prefer to start earlier according to research carried out by IMRG and Toluna.

Many retailers have taken note, launching their event a full week before the day – with a series of specific Black Friday discounting campaigns. Last year consumers took advantage of extended Sales periods, which in many cases ran throughout November and December as retailers tried to level out the mega spikes that had caused logistics nightmares in previous years.

But we can’t underestimate the influence of this promo heaven, it’s estimated that 84% of online retailers and 75% of high street stores in the UK offered some kind of promotion over last year’s Black Friday weekend.

In fact, of the retailers we surveyed, 32% say they started their promotions in November last year, tying into the big shopping spikes. A quarter say they started in October and a fifth in September.

It seems it’s never too early to embrace the Christmas spirit.

Make a List… and Check it Twice

Analysing last year’s performance is key to being prepared for this year’s peak. Understand where to invest within your business to maximise return over the peak period. Of the retailers we spoke to:

  • 37% said they intend to up their digital marketing spend to attract more shoppers.
  • 33% intend to offer more promotions this year with
  • 14% of that saying they will up the discounts over Black Friday Weekend.
  • 10% say the key to increasing sales in investing in free delivery and returns
  • 7% plan to increase their presence on new marketplace channels.

In the next blog in the series we will be exploring pricing strategy, listings, advertising and search to ensure you can take advantage of the enormous Christmas opportunity. So stay tuned for more tips, why not sign up to our blog so you never miss a trick.

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