Spring is a key period for many retailers, as the change of the season from winter to spring coupled with the numerous bank holiday weekends and school holidays mean people spend more money.
This is particularly pertinent for retailers selling relevant product ranges. Improving weather and longer daylight hours encourage consumers to become more social and spend time outdoors; start to spruce up their gardens, host BBQs, and indulge in outdoor sports. Children get an extra hour to stay outside and play, people start DIY projects and spring cleaning. Shoppers buy swimwear and shorts for summer holidays; hay fever sufferers stock up on antihistamines and festival-goers shop for tents and sleeping bags. Weddings are planned and wardrobes are refreshed.
Easter weekend is a particularly key sales period during spring, and sales of the wide range of products associated with the changes in behaviour described above are all impacted by where the Easter weekend falls during the season.
Easter weekend is three weeks later in 2017 than it was in 2016, moving from 27th March to 16th April. Consequently, we expect a significant knock on effect on customer behaviour, and therefore demand and sales, during the three big customer events within the season – Easter weekend, May Day and Spring Bank Holiday.
What should retailers do?
In order to understand the impact on retail, we have modelled Easter in different positions including looking at previous years’ data, creating a forecast of expected performance. From this research we have come up with three key suggestions for how to get the best out of spring retailing this year:
Understand how the three key events impact one another
In 2017 there will only be 14 days between Easter weekend and May day, compared with 35 days in 2016. Consumers who spend during Easter may be reluctant to embark on another shopping spree a mere two weeks later. The means Easter sales will likely cannibalise May day sales, and the drop in spend on May day might in turn facilitate increased sales over Spring Bank Holiday. Specifically, we have forecast 2017 May Bank Holiday sales will be 4-5% less than 2016, but there is a 5-6% growth opportunity for retailers on Spring Bank Holiday.
Take advantage of this by planning for a smaller sales opportunity on May day and a bigger sales opportunity on Spring Bank, and distributing your marketing investment accordingly.
Understand the weather implications
The products that sell well at Easter vary each year, dependent on when Easter falls and what the weather conditions are. A later Easter is often warmer and can be a good a good kick starter for Spring sales. Consumers may be reluctant to start purchasing BBQ equipment and swimwear during March, but as the days get lighter and daffodils start sprouting during April, the Easter weekend can seem an ideal time to start looking forward to sunny holidays, weddings and a whole host of outdoor activities.
Sunshine cannot be relied upon, however. Spring is the most variable time of year for weather, and integral to a successful spring marketing plan is the exploration of a range of different scenarios. Consider what you are likely to sell at this time of year in wet/dry and in cold/warm conditions; build multiple plans based on your findings and be ready to activate the strategy that is most relevant to the weather.
Don’t try to outdo last year’s performance on a week-by-week basis
Competing with your previous year’s performance on a weekly basis is not possible in spring, due to the unique arrangements of the key dates throughout the season. The last week of March will not be comparable with the same week last year, because people’s buying behaviour will be significantly influenced by the Easter bank holiday weekend. Rather than looking backwards, instead build a plan for this year based on what you know about customer behaviour. View the 13-week period as a whole, and ensure you set expectations internally that while year-on-year performance may vary throughout the period, planning for this will create stronger performance overall. Don’t wait for volatile like-for-like performance before having this conversation.
Focus on the bigger picture, building a sales and marketing plan based on insights and forecasted behaviour. Alter levers such as promotions and marketing activity; be proactive and think strategically about the opportunity the whole period represents. Take advantage of the uncertainty your competitors will no doubt be feeling; this is a chance to poach their sales if they don’t have a good plan!
There are great opportunities available for retailers at this time of year, and those who plan carefully, avoid trying to replicate last year and instead prepare to react to the unique conditions of the 2017 spring period will be the ones to come out on top.