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How Retailers Can Make Up Sales While Stores Are Closed During the Thanksgiving Holiday

A growing number of retailers are planning to stay dark on Thanksgiving Day and even Black Friday this year, with Foot Locker just the latest to announce it will close all its stores on Thanksgiving.

Historically, Thanksgiving and Black Friday have been critical days for retailers. Foot traffic data platform Placer.ai ran analysis to measure the role of Thanksgiving in big retailers’ annual consumer traffic and found that the day is a consistent top, if not best, performer.

Placer.ai looked at the consumer traffic data for stores like Walmart, Target and Macy’s and also found that Black Friday was one of the top-performing days annually, each year from 2017 to 2019, for all retailers studied. These results were mimicked when surveying shopping centers Aventura Mall in Florida and Woodbury Common in New York — both reported their highest annual visits during Thanksgiving.

Late December was the other most-popular time for retail visits, particularly at brands that sell food items such as Costco. But Placer.ai found that for other consumer goods, Thanksgiving had a disproportionate share of the year’s traffic — something that retailers can’t afford to give up this year, especially with many reporting poor Q2 performances.

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So to have a successful holiday season without those pivotal days, companies will need to get creative with their sales strategy.

“In general, apparel and footwear are much more heavily oriented towards Black Friday, so there is a real need for these brands to mitigate losses should the day be lost or limited,” said Ethan Chernofsky, VP of Marketing at Placer.ai. “What is interesting about this data is that while Black Friday clearly provides a lot of value, there are ways to leverage the rest of the calendar more effectively — and that should be incredibly heartening for retailers.”

For many companies, closing stores is the only way to ensure a safe environment for customers, especially during big sales moments, when crowd control is difficult. In order to protect revenue, Chernofsky predicts that many retailers will try to circumvent the traffic losses by extending the Black Friday period and offering similar discounts and deals throughout a longer window of time.

Other opportunities will include utilizing omnichannel strategies to retain as much of the shopping experience as possible, even with stores closed on the Thanksgiving holiday itself. One way to achieve this is to offer appointment-only times for consumers to try on shoes in-store, before purchasing during the sale period. Alternatively, curbside pickup could be a way for retailers to maneuver around store closure policies and still provide service.

“How can a brand re-create the checkout experience where you add a few ‘spur of the moment’ purchases or help you accomplish more with a single trip?” said Chernofsky. “Companies that can tap into these elements will drive a lot of success during the holiday period.”

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