What can retailers learn from Karneval 2018?

German Karneval goes by several different names — including Fasching, Fastnacht, and Fassenacht. It’s known throughout the world as a giant festival of fun, based on ancient local traditions. The season starts 52 days before Easter and ends with a week-long celebration before Ash Wednesday consisting of parties, fancy dress parades, balls, banquets and general mayhem.

The Germans call this ‘the fifth season’, which shows how important Karneval is to large parts of the country. And Karneval is big news beyond Germany too – particularly Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg — where merry-making and street festivities add colour and excitement to city streets on key dates. So as Karneval 2018 reaches its noisy peak, let’s take a look at the power of tradition in local communities, and how physical retail can engage fully and fruitfully in these important social occasions.

Join the parade

German retailers are becoming ever more sophisticated when planning and marketing for these specific events. Around half a billion euros are spent just in the Rheinland region of Germany on Karneval festivities according to recent estimates. And the people of Bonn reportedly spend the most — on average 309 euros per adult for costumes, beer and food — while the people of Cologne are the second biggest spenders.

Karneval peaks can vary according to location. Although the season officially begins on 11th November, as a general rule Fasching/Karneval will reach its peak the following year with a six-day celebration that ends with Karnevalsdienstag (also known as Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Pancake Day — February 13th in 2018). This aligns with the Christian tradition of enjoying the last days of eating, drinking, and merriment before the start of Lent.

Celebrations reach a peak

The three most popular versions are Karneval in the Rheinland region, Fasching in Southern Germany, and Fastenacht in Baden Würrtemberg.

Cologne (Köln), Düsseldorf, Mainz, Munich, Aachen and Bonn are the key cities where fun and festivities take place. A high point of the peak week is the Women’s Carnival known as Weiberfastnacht, which is an unofficial holiday. It’s a chance for women dress up in costumes and misbehave in harmless ways.

The Monday following Women’s Carnival is Rosenmontag or Rose Monday, and this marks the peak of carnival season with a day of parades. Cologne is perhaps the biggest and best known, where over a million people line the main street to watch a parade that can take up to five hours to pass. Karnevalsdienstag or Shrove Tuesday marks the last day of the carnival season, and people celebrate this with more show-stopping parades and big parties throughout Germany.

Karneval best-sellers and traffic drivers

Retailers selling fancy dress clothing, food and drink, party accessories and decorations work hard to ensure stores look bright and well-stocked with Karneval-themed ranges and displays from January. Clown and Wild West costumes and masks are at a premium and food-wise demand is high for beer, wine, pretzels, sausages (Bratwurst), potato soup, spiced meatballs, and Berliners, the classic German donut.

Be ready for the Karneval peaks

Family get-togethers and parties take place across Germany during the final week, and ShopperTrak data shows that in the relevant cities, stores can be particularly busy in the weekend and days before Shrove Tuesday as locals stock up on traditional treats. This is a great opportunity to use traffic data analytics to plan for demand, know where your interior hotspots will be, and ensure stores are staffed and festive-looking to match the mood and expectations of shoppers.

In tune with tradition

The beauty of physical retail space is that the party atmosphere can continue in-store, generating customer goodwill, and demonstrating the retailer’s commitment to serve at the heart of the community. Events like Karneval can be powerful retail traffic drivers, but more importantly, they show how bricks and mortar stores are engaging directly with an important cultural event, totally in tune with local tradition.

Despite the rise of new digital channels, stores will always be integral to much-loved celebrations like Karneval in Germany. They are part of the fun that customers and staff want to enjoy, and with the right data insights, and operational improvements made over time, Karneval season trading can be successful year after year.

If you’re ready to embrace the benefits of in-store analytics to maximise sales opportunities in line with local needs, visit ShopperTrak today.


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