December 23 is biggest sales day of year for some retailers

Revenue per hour is often higher on December 24

christmas shopping
Christmas shoppers mill about on Granville Street | Glen Korstrom

Many retailers are enjoying their biggest sales day of the year with December 23 being the last full shopping day before Christmas.

London Drugs COO Clint Mahlman said earlier this year that his chain of more than 80 general merchandise stores generates more revenue on December 23 than on any other day. Revenue per hour is highest on the shortened Christmas Eve shopping day, while peak sales also occur on Black Friday and during Boxing Week, he added.

Large payment provider Moneris Canada, however, predicted earlier this month that December 20 – the last Friday before Christmas – would be the busiest shopping day of the year, with more than 25 million transactions. It then got even more precise by predicting that the busiest time would be 2 p.m., when more than 600 transactions would be processed per second.

Retail analyst and DIG360 owner David Gray told BIV that Boxing Day remains a bigger shopping day in Canada than is Black Friday, and that Black Friday sales in Canada rose a bit but basically have “plateaued,” with slightly more than half of Canadians either buying or browsing sales promotions on that day.

“We maintain our earlier prediction of 2% growth in November and December retail revenues in 2019,” Gray said in a research note that he sent to BIV on December 19.

That prediction comes despite Black Friday in 2019 coming later in the year than a year ago, prompting 2019 to have six fewer shopping days than in 2018.

“Fewer deep mark-downs will offset a flat participation [rate] in holiday shopping,” he said. “We based this on Black Friday patterns, reported sales in 2019 to date, and an expectation that there will be less excess inventory toward the end of the year.”

Gray said that there was a delayed start to promotions in the Black Friday period but that the blockbuster sales event that follows U.S. Thanksgiving finished strong, with 37% of Canadians buying at least one Black Friday promotion in November this year, up from 34% a year ago.

That data stems from a survey conducted by Dig360 and research firm Leger.

More than half of those buyers (52%), or 19% of all Canadians, bought something on November 29. That is up from 17% of all Canadians buying something on Black Friday in 2018.

Gray said that the survey showed that a smaller proportion of Canadians (40% vs. 45% in 2018) report they will shop on Boxing Day this year.

The number of people who expect to shop is always greater than those who actually buy, he said.

His prediction is that about 19% of Canadians will buy something during Boxing Day, which would be about the same as the 19% who bought something during Black Friday promotions.