Christmas 2011 Post-Mortem, Part 1
Christmas has come and gone for another year, and exhausted independent retailers are tallying up the results. From those that I’ve talked to, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were marked by alternating stretches where business surged ahead of last years pace and stretches where it fell behind. The only pattern to it all was that there seemed to be no pattern at all.
But I think there's a pattern that’s emerged, that’s been in the making for the past several years. I haven’t read any analysis or seen any data compiled on this, but in talking to people, including my clients, and observing in my own travels, I think there’s a pattern emerging in the balance between business done on-line and in stores.
I’ve had a number of people suggest to me that, apart from the Black Friday mayhem, the malls and major chain retail stores just didn’t seem as busy as they once were, even in the past several years since the recession. The malls weren’t as crowded. Lines at checkout aren’t as long. Parking spaces were easier to find. I felt the same way when I was out in the stores.
There’s been a lot written about the growth of on-line shopping, especially on the year over year increases of Cyber Monday. What’s been clear for several years is that e-commerce is taking more market share with each Christmas season, and that’s impacting brick ‘n’ mortar retailers more and more every year.
What I believe, however, is that e-commerce business not only peaks during the Christmas season, but so does e-commerce market share. The Christmas selling season is when the hassle of heading out to the stores is the greatest. It’s so much easier to get what you need from your laptop or smart phone.
Call it the e-commerce convenience advantage. During the rest of the year, e-commerce doesn’t begin to have the convenience advantage that it has during the Christmas selling season. But at Christmas time, e-commerce clearly has a convenience advantage over brick ‘n’ mortar retailers.
The major national chains have attempted to offset the convenience advantage through their own e-commerce sites. The very best independent retailers have sought to do the same within their niches, but the impact on them is still pretty significant. December is still the biggest month for most independent retailers, but it’s no longer quite the behemoth month it once was. You used to be able to count on December to make up for the vagaries and mistakes of the prior 11 months. December no longer packs quite the same punch it once did.
This is further reason why retailers have to be at the top of their game from the first day of the year right through to the last. The days of getting by without getting the very most out of your business day in and day out are over. Taking your business to the next level means taking your own retail business management skill set to the next level, now more than ever.