Monday, December 17, 2018

Timing of Holiday-Season Shopping

From what I am seeing and hearing, this season’s Christmas shopping traffic seems strong enough, but something has changed. The timing of shopping is off, based on the expectations of previous years. I mentioned this on Black Friday, when daytime retail traffic was far below the historic levels of Black Friday and even below that of a normal fall Saturday. The heavier retail traffic on Thanksgiving weekend occurred on Thanksgiving night and on Sunday afternoon.

This pattern of changes in retail timing continued last weekend. The heaviest retail traffic I saw was on Friday morning through lunch hour and on Sunday from late morning till early evening. Many workers take the day off on a Friday in the later part of December, and of course, many workers are paid on Thursday and Friday, so it should not be surprising to have extra shopping traffic on Friday — but why Friday morning? My guess is that there were people who had travel plans or parties scheduled later in the day and wanted to do their shopping as soon as the stores opened. Regardless of the details, for so much shopping to be shifted to a Friday morning shows that shopping has become more of a secondary activity which must give way to the more interesting activities on the schedule.

I suppose this is not really news. It is, after all, the main reason why holiday-season shopping has been shifting toward November and October, so that time spent in stores does not clash with the actual social occasions of the holiday season. But the timing of shopping trips is clearly different this year, so the change must mean more than just this.