2019 Christmas traffic recap: The year of Super Monday

by ShopperTrak on 21-01-20

When compiling our 2019 festive shopper traffic predictions, we took account of the differences between the calendar timing of Christmas 2019 and that of 2018.

Now that we can analyse what actually happened in stores and shopping centres in the UK from Black Friday (29th November) to the New Year, it’s clear that ShopperTrak’s initial prediction of the top 5 busiest shopping days aligned closely with the actual busiest physical shopping days.

“This year the festive calendar varied greatly from 2018,” said Brian Field, senior director of global retail consulting for ShopperTrak. “With Black Friday landing during the final days of November, the festive shopping calendar was compressed, which meant fewer shopping days this season. Additionally, there were only three Saturdays in December before Christmas Day, while there were four in 2018.”

He adds that, looking ahead, the calendars align more closely between 2019 and 2020, except that Christmas Day will be on a Friday in 2020, as this is a leap year.

Retailers can certainly build on what they learnt about shopper behaviour and traffic patterns this Christmas and New Year when preparing for this year’s season.

ShopperTrak predictions vs actuals for peak 2019

Predicted 2019 Busiest Shopping Days UK

  1. Saturday, Dec. 21 – Saturday before Christmas, also known as Super Saturday
  2. Saturday, Nov. 30 – Saturday after Black Friday
  3. Saturday, Dec. 14 – Two Saturdays before Christmas
  4. Saturday, Dec. 7 – 1st Saturday in December
  5. Friday, Dec. 27 – Day after Boxing Day

Actual 2019 Busiest Shopping Days UK

  1. Saturday, Nov. 30 – Saturday after Black Friday
  2. Monday, Dec. 23 – Monday before Christmas
  3. Saturday, Dec. 21 – Saturday before Christmas, also known as Super Saturday
  4. Friday, Dec. 27 – Day after Boxing Day
  5. Saturday, Dec. 14 – Two Saturdays before Christmas

Super Saturday eclipsed by Super Monday

‘Super Saturday’ – 21st December – was the third busiest day of the season, not the busiest as we’d predicted. Regardless, our stats confirm the importance of this key date in the retail calendar, no matter how Christmas falls. We rightly forecast that the Saturday immediately after Black Friday (30th November) would be a bumper footfall day too – in fact it proved to be the busiest day overall.

One surprise is the fact that Monday 23rd December registered as the second busiest shopping day of the season, when it didn’t make our Top 5 prediction.

With Kantar’s Grocery Market Share data showing Monday 23rd December was the busiest food shopping day of 2019, it appears shoppers chose this day to organise their festive food and drink, as it was so conveniently close to Christmas. It follows that last-minute gift buying tied in well for shoppers, at the same time as a food shopping trip.

It’s also likely that many Brits were off work on Monday 23rd, creating an ideal late Christmas shopping opportunity. The likelihood is that for Christmas 2020, Wednesday 23rd will be a notable peak shopping day.

Generally, it’s clear that in-store shopper numbers demonstrate the importance of last-minute Christmas shopping for brick-and-mortar in the UK, once online orders are no longer possible. In 2019 Black Friday weekend worked its magic as an early draw, but plenty of families still needed to hit the shops right up to Christmas Eve.

Year-on-year results for the Christmas 2019 season

According to ShopperTrak actuals, for December overall (01/12/2019 – 31/12/2019 vs 01/12/2018 – 31/12/2018), UK retail traffic was down -1.5%.

This reflects the fact that there were only three December Saturdays before Christmas, compared to four in 2018. Analysts also point to the caution and spending restraint of British consumers at the end of 2019. This low confidence among shoppers has marked much of the last three years.

As we head into 2020, winning physical retailers will continue to build data insights that help them understand shopper behaviour, store by store, region by region. This can help them tailor their in-store service and staffing levels to meet expected customer needs and be peak ready for the key shopping days to come.

Find our Festive Peak Shopping Guide 2019/20 here and discover how you can be peak-ready with ShopperTrak’s Market Intelligence tool.

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