While Black Friday gets all of the press, Super Saturday has been creeping up in recent years to become the holiday season’s secret second pole of retail action. Consumers, now trained by retailer discounting behaviors around the holiday where sales start earlier and run throughout the season (as opposed to the major tent pole days like Black Friday that tended to attract a good deal of the discounting gravity), are simply holding off and waiting.
The best deals may be yet to come, after all — and why risk overpaying?
That has been the data trend the team at InfoScout has been pushing for this holiday season. Black Friday isn’t dead, exactly — but it’s far past its heyday. Between 2014 and 2015, shopping on Black Friday was more or less flat, a trend that seems to have bled into 2016. By some counts, shopping on Black Friday actually fell year over year, though both Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday continued to grow.
But as the earliest “big” day in the shopping season seems to be diminishing, the end of the road is getting a lot busier. Shopping trips on Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas) were up 13 percent, while shopping on the day before Christmas Eve was up 11 percent.
2016 is an unusual year in many regards. And the Christmas shopping calendar is one of those anomalies because Christmas actually takes place on a weekend. So by some counts, Super Saturday was last week (because it is the last full weekend before Christmas), while by others, Super Saturday and Christmas Eve are technically the same day. Note for that for the remainder of this article, we are referring to Saturday, Dec. 17, as Super Saturday.
And by all mathematical models, once again, those late-season shoppers will be carrying the day in 2016.
So Why The Switch?
Basically, according to InfoScout, it all comes down to naturalness of fit for a shopping day. ck Friday became Black Friday by universal social agreement: Retailers agreed to put everything on sale for a day or two — with some items ridiculously discounted for those willing to wait on line at dawn — and consumers agreed to show up and fight each other for the various goods on offer.
The problem is that online commerce in general — and Amazon specially — really cut back on how appealing that plan was for consumers. Discounting is great, – but over the past five years, it has rapidly become untethered from Black Friday itself, so that by this year Black Friday sales literally kicked off around the web on Nov. 1, which gave physical locations little recourse but to follow suit.
Without the essential gravity of the chance for rare deals to lure consumers in, waking up at dawn and fighting for a parking space or a doorbuster flatscreen seemed a lot less appealing.
Super Saturday, InfoScout CEO Jared Schrieber noted, is not quite the same situation. The need to shop the weekend before Christmas isn’t a created need in quite the same way the need to shop the weekend after Thanksgiving is.
“Black Friday has become an increasingly artificial phenomenon, driven more by retailer promotion than by its date on the calendar,” said Schrieber. “Super Saturday, by contrast, offers a more natural reason for people to shop in droves — it’s the last weekend for procrastinators to wrap up their Christmas shopping. And now with retailers offering online promotions throughout the holiday period, there’s no longer a need to fight or brave the crowds on Black Friday.”
Change is not quite a universal agent — and some markets move faster than others. 2016 will like be something of a hybrid year for U.S. shoppers, where some markets will see Black Friday hold onto its dominance, while others see it get passed by for Super Saturday.
So where will the biggest growth be? According to InfoScout’s earlier analysis of shopping trips in individual shopping areas, Super Saturday will most likely notch a “win” this year in five major metro areas: Dallas/Fort Worth; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Miami and Los Angeles.
Other than regional, the big shifts this year are generational. Baby boomers continue to be early shoppers; millennials, on the other hand, shop later in the season and later in the day.
“Millennials are the general driving back and really changing the shape of the Christmas shopping season,” Schrieber noted. “And as we are watching holiday season 2016 unfold in real time, that trend isn’t just continuing, it is accelerating.”
Good news for merchants — those millennials are spending more. Overall basket size was up 12.7 percent in the age group last Christmas, and that is expected to continue to grow. Also growing were store visits (up 19.7 percent between 2014 and 2015) and spend (up 13.4 percent during the same time period).
So keep watching holiday 2016 — as it turns out, we probably won’t know if it really sizzled (or really fizzled) until the clock strikes 12 on Christmas Eve.