Editor's note: This post was written by Katie Lewis.
Boxing Day is the gift that keeps on giving. Held December 26, or the day after Christmas, it might seem like an obscure holiday to some people but it’s a holiday steeped in history with its origins stretching back to Victorian times (though that is up for debate). Today it’s celebrated in most parts of the Commonwealth, including the U.K., Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and South Africa, and has evolved into a day of rest, relaxation–and shopping.
In Canada alone, Deloitte reported one in three shoppers plan to shop Boxing Day sales, with the end of the year acting as “a great opportunity for retailers to continue to drive sales and clear leftover inventory.” In the UK? It’s estimated that half the adults in the country–27 million people–take part.
The best news? It’s not just a day. The holiday stretches over a week in what’s known as “Boxing Week.” Over time, Boxing Week has grown as a cyber retail event, with people abandoning chilly early morning lineups into shopping from the comfort of their own homes over the course of the week. While Black Friday or Cyber Monday is usually about buying for others, consumers often buy for themselves on Boxing Day–snagging some of those missed wish-list presents, while hunting for a deal.
Boxing Day has locked down a foundation as a money–making week, but there are a few things to learn in order to make the most of the Boxing Day boost for your own business.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day wasn’t always a shopping party, with its early traditions rooted in giving. And no, it has nothing to do with boxing the sport, even if your family might drive you crazy during the holidays.
The holiday is believed to have originated in the U.K. and is widely celebrated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and other commonwealth countries. The Oxford English Dictionary points to the origins of the holiday coming from Britain in the 1830s as "the first weekday after Christmas day, observed as a holiday on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas box.” It was also a day where servants and families celebrated their Christmas together.
But Boxing Day isn’t the only day for December 26. Some people know it as a religious holiday of St. Stephen’s Day. In Ireland, it is sometimes called Wren Day, and used to involve killing a small bird, tying it to a pole and then taking it along on a singalong, singing the “Wren Song” (turn out, the practice has fallen out of favor these days). South Africa gave it the name of “Goodwill Day” in the mid-90s, with other countries–Netherlands and Poland–simply calling it “Second Christmas Day.”
In the 1980s Boxing Day turned to retail as consumers embraced the day for sales. As for today? Boxing Week is part of one of the most important shopping weeks of the year, with the months of November and December accounting for an average of around 30% of retailers’ annual earnings. While Boxing Day has a long history in brick-and-mortar retail stores, shoppers also expect online sales as well. Canada’s Boxing Day has been compared with Black Friday and Super Saturday. In the UK, an estimated £1.04 billion or $1.37 billion USD was spent online during Boxing Day in 2018.
How is Boxing Day different from Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
The most obvious difference of Boxing Day over Black Friday and Cyber Monday is timing: consumers can secure extra discounts after Christmas as the gift-giving season winds down, as compared to before.
But it’s also geographic: while Black Friday and Cyber Monday started as American traditions, Boxing Day is a Commonwealth classic, with the UK, Canada, Australia and more focused on the event.
Evidence is showing us that more of these kinds of shopping events are crossing global borders and attracting more customers: Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales boomed this year and China-focused Singles Day hit eye-popping numbers.
There are many ways to promote Black Friday and Cyber Monday but Boxing Week is an opportunity to do something different.
Why should you consider discounting your products during Boxing Week?
Out with the old, in with the new. As an online retailer, Boxing Week can give you a valuable opportunity to clear out last year’s inventory. It also means you can slash prices on holiday-themed merchandise or offer one-time discounts to entice spending.
While Boxing Day might not have the same popularity it does in the U.S., many online retailers drastically cut prices on the day, particularly those with seasonal merchandise. While some people are back in the office, many consumers aren’t and the experience of lazing around in pajamas, finding post-Christmas deals online, while avoiding loved ones after a whole lot of family time is one that is pretty compelling.
Many Boxing Day offers are limited time offers, which helps make sales more exciting and drives customers to buy things on a deadline. Boxing Day can help persuade shoppers to stay home and grab a deal before it expires, all while helping extend that holiday feeling.
Competition during the holiday season can be intense, but Boxing Day can also be a time to consider different forms of promotion. One idea is to grant early access to a Boxing Day deal for your most loyal customers, starting on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Why? It’s easier to market to your current customers than gain new ones, not to mention it extends Boxing Day into a multi–day event.
What can online retailers learn from Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is one of the top shopping days of the holiday season, particularly in Commonwealth countries. It represents a key global sales opportunity, and an easy way to clear out inventory. Simply put? Consumers aren’t done celebrating, so capitalize on that and fold the event into your holiday plans for your growing online business.