There is certainly something unusual about Daylight Savings Time when it comes to consumer shopping behavior. Typically, we have seen an uptick in traffic for most retailers on the Saturday prior to changing clocks forward. I think this is partially due to the psychology of the consumer mindset about the coming of spring, and the release from a feeling of being cooped up all winter.
Retailers that use transactional data to schedule staffing often miss this opportunity, but retailers that import traffic data as a means to schedule staffing more often get this right provided that the traffic import is based on day of week and not date. In today’s challenging market, it’s a tactic certainly worth examining and experimenting with.
Management and store operations can also reduce hours based on the output of the workforce management schedule since the uptick is on a rather random occurrence that only happens once a year (interestingly, shopper traffic does not experience the same bump with “fall back” when clocks are turned back in autumn). Retailers can take some quick hits for the daylight savings weekend by:
- Taking advantage of the uptick in traffic by promoting new spring merchandise and Easter products early (we will talk Easter in a minute) which will improve margins
- Creating opportunities to enroll new customers in loyalty programs, and
- Refreshing the staff training for suggestion selling.
Now, on to Easter.
This year, Easter is back in the month of March, earlier than last year’s occurrence in April. This shift in the retail calendar always creates havoc on the sales results for March and April. However, most of the retail spend for Easter in 2015 actually took place in March since Easter fell on the first fiscal day of April. Last year, spring break was the last week of March, and this year moves up – for many colleges – to the second to last week of the month. These factors together should help drive better store performance in March as compared to last year.
In March 2015, store traffic was down 5.8 percent, with sales down 3.2 percent. Conversion last March was almost one percentage point higher. For this year, the top shopping days will be the weekend leading up to Easter, with the highest traffic day the Saturday before Easter.
The challenge for the spring calendar will be to make up the miss looming ahead in April. In addition to the early Easter, there is a later Memorial Day, which makes the event gap in April particularity challenging for retailers. I think this will give way to opportunities and a healthy spend for Mother’s Day, nestled nicely between Easter and Memorial Day.
Lastly, keep in mind that Memorial Day falls in fiscal June (on retail’s 4-5-4 calendar), making the season a seemingly shorter summer. While the argument stands that consumers do not shop to a fiscal calendar, retailers certainly promote to one. If retailers wait to promote Memorial Day sales, it will impact both margin and merchandise turn for the spring quarter. To that end, I suspect we will see early Memorial Day promotions.
Retailers can think about the following ways to help minimize a negative impact from the calendar:
- April is primed for personalized and specialized events catered to target markets
- May promotional strategies should be thoughtful and show good cadence to reap the rewards of Mother’s Day with higher transaction values on higher margin products, while at the same time pricing Spring clearance and summer products right
- Use historical traffic data to help align staff and non-selling activities optimally
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