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2013 Holiday Shopping Season is Shorter and Starts Sooner. Are You Ready?




festive-418192-mIt would seem like there’s always the same number of shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but it simply isn’t so. In 2012, we celebrated the mighty turkey on November 22, giving shoppers and sellers a full 31 days of shopping before Santa began shimming down chimneys in the US.

This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28 which drops the shopping period to only 25 days. That’s a tough break for small stores that need every hour of holiday sales time in order to make their year.

Also, because of the way the calendar swings, there will only be 4 shopping weekends instead of five this year. That’s another huge blow, since weekends are the golden days for retailers.

The second bit of bad news is Hanukkah. Last year, the holiday began on December 8. This year, Hanukkah starts BEFORE Thanksgiving on November 27.

ShopperTrak says the early holiday won’t hurt sales, but I don’t agree. Traditionally, the buying season begins with Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving but Hanukkah shoppers will need to have their gifts bought and wrapped before Black Friday begins.

Then again, who waits for Black Friday anymore? Last year, dozens of retailers started slashing prices long before the turkey hit the plate. A few outlets even opened their doors on Thanksgiving for those who wanted to work off some of their meal with a round of hustle and bustle.

What does this all mean in dollars? ShopperTrak’s Bill Martin says consumers aren’t ready to splurge. His company predicts a 2.4 percent rise in retail sales over last year but a decrease in shopper traffic.  In other words, customers aren’t going to hit ten stores at the mall. Instead, they’ll be doing their homework, before picking the one or two stores with the most deals.

This is great news for retailers who carry a wide selection of merchandise but tough on specialty stores.

The takeaway is that you have to ramp up for the holiday now. Start teasing the sales and the merchandise and get ready to go full jingle jangle the minute Halloween is dead and buried. Better yet, run a few sales in early October to get buyers in the holiday mood. If you’re strictly online, have a Twitter party, run a giveaway, have a blow out on Pinterest. Involve your customers now, because once they realize they’re out 6  days and a weekend, they won’t have time to anything but shop.