Holiday Season Series: Capacity and Inventory Planning | Part 1: Plan for Peak Holiday Visitation

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Can you hear the bells a ringin’?  That’s right, the holidays are right around the corner and it’s make-or-break season for retailers. 

For store operators, getting a competitive edge for 2023 means taking a long hard look…backward. Observing years’ past location data will be your roadmap for the influx of shoppers in ‘23 and help you to capitalize on the opportunity presented this holiday season. Let's learn how! 

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Benefits of Location Data for Holiday Planning: Capacity & Inventory Planning

Success during the holidays oftentimes comes down to the preparation and planning in the weeks and months leading up to the season. 

One area of preparation is for the spike in foot traffic that comes during this time of year. The holidays are the busiest time of year for most retailers and require proactive planning to ensure a location is:

  • Staffed appropriately
  • Carrying the right level of inventory
  • Continuing to deliver top notch customer service

Previous years’ location data provides operators with reliable estimates for the expected changes to visitor foot traffic on a week-by-week basis leading up to, during, and after the holiday season. 

This, in turn, can be used to ensure efficient levels of staffing and inventory to meet demand and deliver seamless shopper experiences. This data helps answer questions like:

  • How does visitation change the week of Black Friday? 
  • How high is foot traffic the week before Christmas? 
  • When does in-store traffic peak? 
  • How fast does it fall off post-holidays?

Answering these questions means that operators can plan ahead now for the demands of the business, freeing up valuable time during the peak weeks of the season.

Case Study: Target

To bring these questions to life, Unacast took a look at the past four holiday seasons: ‘19, ‘20, ‘21 and ‘22 at a specific retailer: Target. 

The gray boxes in the graphic represent the spikes in foot traffic to a single representative Target location during the holiday season, which we’ve defined as the first week of November through the first week of January. Compared to the time period preceding the gray box, foot traffic peaks at 40-75% higher, depending on the year. 

location data capacity planning

In addition to identifying the spikes in foot traffic, this graphic also highlights the importance of brick-and-mortar shopping in the digital age. 

During each of the past four years, the highest annual visitation occurred during the holiday season. Customers value flexibility in how and where they purchase, but this hasn’t diminished or devalued the brick-and-mortar experience.

Diving back into the data, we can break down the actual weekly percentage differences to most accurately plan for the season.

Between 2020-2022, on average, visitation patterns were steady for the first 3-4 weeks of November. The week of Black Friday accelerates visitation by ~30% above the pre-holiday benchmark and foot traffic continues to climb until the week before Christmas. During this week, foot traffic is ~60% higher than average.

Foot traffic quickly returns to normal by the last week of December into the new year.

location data inventory planning

Knowing these benchmarks ahead of the season, teams can develop plans that match the expected flow of visitors to the store. 

For example, during the peak weeks before Christmas, when visitation is 60% higher than normal, the store will likely need more staff for working registers, replenishing inventory on shelves, and handling customer questions.

These needs are short-term and contained, though, as scheduling can return to normal by the week following Christmas.

In the current environment, staffing continues to be a challenge for many retailers. Proactive planning can ensure that the schedules are prepared far in advance for the benefit of both the location and the workers.

Access the Data with Unacast Insights

This information is readily accessible within the Unacast Insights platform - all without the need for complex technical skills.

Finding a location within the Venues tab is as simple as using the search bar for the desired store.

location data insights

Once selected, the View More Details button brings a user to traffic trends, viewable Monthly or Weekly. On hover, the metrics for visitation count are revealed, providing granular insights into the weekly or monthly metrics for any period of the year, viewable over a multi-year period.

location data black friday

Access to timely and reliable information powers data-driven decision making at all levels of the organization. As retailers seek to gain an edge — particularly during the all important holiday shopping seasons — location data provides a competitive advantage in all aspects of the business from strategic planning to store-level execution.

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Check out Part 2: Connect With Your Holiday Shoppers!


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