Summer is racing by and here in the UK the weather is turning from warm and sunny to chilly and wet - as anyone who tuned into the recent world athletics championships in London will know.
Soon people’s thoughts - and shopping trips - will be geared towards back-to-school stuff, warm, cosy clothing and, seemingly earlier each year, to Christmas and all it entails.
But are people’s shopping habits really this easy to predict? Is the trend typically seasonal with predictable peaks at Christmas and - depending on the products you sell - other fixed times around holidays, events and religious or cultural festivals?
Here we take a look at 7 things that might affect customer spending causing a peak in your operations.
Let’s take the obvious one first. Christmas is big business with restaurants advertising Christmas party packages and shops building up their christmas ranges before autumn has even begun.
Christmas shopping habits vary, with some people choosing to spread their Christmas spend over many months and begin shopping early, while others leave it all to the last minute. Bargain-hunters may wait for mid-season sales, flash offers, Black Friday (more on this later) or even stock up for next year in the January sales.
When you offer your discounts and how you advertise them can give you an element of control and predictability over this - be sure to target all types of shopper!
2. Black Friday
Big in the US and now a regular fixture in the UK, Black Friday, which falls in late November, has become hugely popular. Many people will wait for this date before replacing big ticket items such as white goods as well as working their way through their Christmas present lists in the hope of securing a bargain.
Different approaches exist, with some retailers applying huge discounts to a limited number of selected items, other offering a blanket % discount across their whole range and some even choosing to ignore it altogether.
Black Friday can give your sales a boost and help you shift slow moving stock, be aware that you may simply be delaying people’s purchases in the lead up to Black Friday resulting in an ‘artificial peak’, and that impulse buys may result in an increase in returns later on.
3. Notable calendar dates
Sellers of fancy dress, partyware and greetings cards will experience multiple peaks of differing size as the year rolls through Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and other religious or regular festivals or fixed dates. And anyone selling school-related products such as uniforms and stationery will have school term dates firmly in mind.
4. Major events and sports fixtures
Major events such as royal weddings, general elections and cup finals can also influence people’s spending habits.
These dates are known about in advance and savvy retailers can capitalise on - or even drive - demand for specific items. For example, international sporting events may have consumers reaching for any product showing their national flag, and major televised events can generate increased demand for certain foods and beverages to enhance people’s viewing pleasure.
5. What about the weather?
Now we start getting into the more unpredictable factors. Search the internet and you will find many articles on this topic, but the consensus appears to be that yes, it does affect spending. However not always how you might think.
Though rainy weather is likely to curtail the domestic market for summery clothes, it might increase holiday bookings, so the sunscreen and sandals that suddenly fall out of favour for use at home could be marketed for overseas use.
Cleverly marketing products to suit the weather can help you weather (no pun intended) these peaks and troughs, and there are even tools out there such as Weatherads to help you!
6. Celebrity endorsement
Sometimes a certain photograph, look or celebrity catches the public mood, and suddenly everyone has to have that dress, bag or pair of trainers. Lucky you if you stock this product and can keep up with the demand. This can be more of a spike than a peak and can be the most unpredictable of all.
7. Product Recalls and scandals
Another one outside your control, our last example of a potential peak trigger, is a product recall or scandal at one of your competitors. Products that people have been buying quite happily now become tainted and people search for alternatives; this could see consumers flocking to you as a safe / ethical alternative.
So, it seems that alongside the seasonal peaks and troughs you may well experience spikes in demand with little or no warning. But whatever the cause of your peaks, make sure your operations can handle them.
We’ll be publishing information on how you can prepare for peaks soon, so keep an eye out for the blog. Or, if you would like to speak to one of our team now to see how Peoplevox Warehouse Management System (WMS) can help you survive your peaks, please contact us here.