Retail Holiday Calendar: Every Date You Need to Know (and Prepare For)

Child with an advent calendar

Retail holidays are days of peak shopping activity, usually driven by an approaching calendar holiday or a local event.

Without a retail holiday calendar, you’ll miss your chance to prepare your store, staff, products, and marketing on time—you’ll also leave sales and revenue on the table.

Consumers spent $789 billion during the US holiday season in 2020—and that’s just retail sales during November and December. You can grab some of that spend all year long and get maximum results by blending in-store and online shopping options.

This guide shows you which dates to focus on, both globally and in specific countries.

Note: This post will be updated in 2022, at which time Canadian and Irish holiday calendars will be added with country-specific events.

Retail holiday calendar: what you need to know

Learn the ins and outs of a retail holiday calendar, including what to do to prepare your store and how to track your success.

What are retail holidays?

Retail holidays are days of the year when shopping activity peaks, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online.

Some retail holidays, like Black Friday or Christmas Eve, are well known, and a clear opportunity to capitalize on peak foot traffic and increase sales. Others aren’t such an obvious chance for profit, but could bring great results for your store.

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Get to know the nature of these retail holidays. Some of them encourage people to search for deals and promotions, others are about local events and supporting small businesses.

Understanding this will help you meet shoppers when they’re in the right mindset to buy what you sell.

How to prepare for retail holidays

Creating an enjoyable shopping experience for retail holidays has two parts:

  1. Getting shoppers into your store
  2. Making sure they leave satisfied with their purchase

The first part emphasizes the importance of holiday marketing: your window display, social media activities, paid ads, gift guides, giveaways, promotional emails, discounts, and pop-up stores.

Thanks to the retail holiday calendar, you can map your marketing far in advance. This way, you’ll be able to plan and create visual content, partner with influencers or other businesses, write emails, and prepare your website on time for maximum impact.

If you choose to open a holiday pop-up shop in relevant fairs and markets, this will give you plenty of time to work out all the logistics.

The second part focuses on the shopping experience and everything that goes into it. Here are some questions you can use to optimize your store for the holiday shopping rush:

This way, you can deliver on the promises you make in your marketing. The result? Not only happy customers that will buy from you again, but a happy team that made it happen.

Tracking important holidays

The more you use a retail holiday calendar to plan future store activities, the easier it will be to reflect on your past sales data and understand what worked and what could be improved.

This is where analyzing your point of sale system’s data can help. Use reports and dashboards to spot trends faster, pinpoint peak sales periods, and quantify the impact your retail store has on sales, customer retention, and your brand’s overall growth.

Merchant analyzing POS data

You can also compare and contrast your online and physical store performance, learn what your best-selling or most profitable products were, and see whether or not the tactics you used helped your store hit its seasonal sales goals.

With this knowledge, you can approach every next holiday with a stronger plan and make every year better than the last.

Global holiday calendar

These are the retail holidays to keep in mind (almost) wherever you are in the world.

Halloween: October 31

Halloween marks the start of the holiday season in the US and in many countries around the world. Consumers spent around $8 billion on Halloween-related items in 2020, and this number is expected to cross the $10 billion mark in 2021.

This is a great time to prepare your store for this first holiday shopping spike. Customer spend is expected to go up for product categories like costumes, decorations, candy, and greeting cards compared to recent years.

Halloween spending by category

You can also leave a great impression on families doing their holiday shopping early, especially those with children. 

“Not only are those with children intending to spend more on Halloween-related items like costumes, they are also getting a kick start on their shopping, with more than half planning to start their shopping in September or earlier,” says Matthew Shay, CEO and president of National Retail Federation.

Singles’ Day: November 11

Singles’ Day, also called Double 11, is an unofficial holiday that celebrates people who aren’t in relationships. It originated in China and quickly became one of the biggest retail and online shopping days in the world. (With Alibaba’s $74 billion in sales on this day in 2020, that’s no surprise.)

It has now expanded into Europe. In 2020, the UK had £1.4 million in sales; Germany, £1.2 million; France, £900,000; and Italy, £500,000 in sales on Singles’ Day. UK customers spent 11.8% more on Singles’ Day in 2020 compared to the previous year.

This is a great opportunity for your retail store if you cater to and celebrate single people with the products you sell, which can be anything from food, drinks, and fashion to self-care and sexual wellness products. 

Black Friday: November 26

Black Friday, the day after US Thanksgiving, needs no special introduction. Worldwide, this day sees a 663% increase in sales compared to an ordinary day:

Global Black Friday sales

In the US, 70% of people shop in-store on Black Friday—more than any other day of the Thanksgiving weekend. Buyers seek Black Friday deals both in brick-and-mortar stores and online—to truly capitalize on BFCM, merchants need to meet holiday consumers’ expectations for shopping experiences that marry online and physical touchpoints. 

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Cyber Monday: November 29

Cyber Monday is Black Friday’s sister shopping holiday on the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States.

Its name originates from when the Black Friday sale took place in brick-and-mortar stores, while the intention of Cyber Monday discounts was to encourage people to shop online.

But shoppers now shop wherever is convenient for them in the moment, and rely on options like BOPIS. In 2019, retailers that offer BOPIS outperformed non-BOPIS retailers by 45% on Cyber Monday.

With attractive discounts and flexible shopping options, your store can scoop its portion of the huge global spend on Cyber Monday (in 2020, this amounted to $10.8 billion).

Super Saturday: December 18

Super Saturday, also known as Panic Saturday, is the last Saturday before Christmas. It’s when many people do last-minute shopping.

In 2019, Bloomberg News reported a one-day sales record, with $34.4 billion spent on Super Saturday. Shoppers are hunting for gift ideas, discounts, and gift wrapping—the convenience of getting everything done in one place and instantly.

This is the advantage Super Saturday gives brick-and-mortar stores over ecommerce, and a great date to plan for and prepare your staffing, store layout, and promotions.

Christmas Eve: December 24

Christmas Eve is the true last chance for Christmas shopping—gifts and groceries included. In the US, 51% of people wait until Christmas Eve to buy presents, and this is a record sales day in New Zealand.

In other words: this is another chance to serve last-minute shoppers. Whether you focus on just your store or also push online promotions for BOPIS shoppers, make sure your inventory can handle it.

Boxing Day: December 26

People shop for gifts for their loved ones up until Christmas Eve, but they often shop for gifts (and discounts) for themselves come Boxing Day.

If you choose to open your store on December 26, use this opportunity to capture shoppers looking for post-Christmas clearances.

New Year’s Eve: December 31

New Year’s Eve is the day when many people do last-minute shopping for outfits, food, drinks, and party supplies. Many also want to take advantage of the final holiday discounts.

Ecommerce daily traffic on New Year’s Eve went up a few years ago, likely due to the cold weather encouraging more people to shop from indoors. So even if you don’t expect significant foot traffic on this day as people get ready for the night, online ordering is worth investing into and promoting on New Year’s Eve.

US holiday calendar

Veterans Day: November 11

For retailers, Veterans Day is the day to honor current and former military members and their families with offers like discounts and special offers.

Brands like Kohl’s, Academy Sports, Columbia, Nike, Samsung, Under Armour, Nest Bedding, and many more offer veterans discounts up to 40% store-wide. Some stores also offer military discounts year-round.

If you want to honor and support military families with your store, these are a few examples of how you can make it happen.

Thanksgiving: November 25

Some 22% of US consumers are most likely to begin their holiday shopping on or after Thanksgiving. Most of those that plan to go to the store on Thanksgiving day expect to do so between 7 and 10 p.m.

Thanksgiving Day sales by time

If your store is open on Thanksgiving, be prepared for afternoon crowds. But if you want to give yourself and your staff the day off on Thanksgiving, you certainly should—there’s plenty of opportunities to attract customers with the shopping season that follows.

Australian holiday calendar

Melbourne Cup: November 2

The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s famous horse race—and a solid opportunity for retailers to win. In recent years, fashion and apparel stores saw an 8% rise in spend in the week before the Melbourne Cup. For specialty food-and-drinks stores and florists, the spend went up by 3%.

These spikes were most notable in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, and Perth. Suppliers see a surge in demand for materials for hats and headpieces as early as July and August, so it’s always good to prepare your store and inventory early ahead of the Melbourne Cup.

Click Frenzy: November 9

Click Frenzy is Australia’s 53-hour shopping event. It was created in 2012, inspired by the popularity of Cyber Monday. All the deals are centralized on the Click Frenzy site, which received 1.9 million visits during its 2020 event.

With over 4,000 deals from more than 500 brands, customers are driven by urgency and scarcity of the sale event. Brands like ihartTOYS saw a 200% increase in sales during one of the events.

Retailers can sign up on the site to set up their branding information and set up deals and/or advertising space. If you want to seriously cut your prices for a limited time and give your store a boost online, this is your chance to do so.

German holiday calendar

Harvest Festival: October 3

The Harvest Festival is one of the oldest traditions in Germany. It celebrates autumn and people working in agriculture, and gives thanks for the harvest.

On this day, Germany comes alive with parades, floats, fairs, music, dance, and food. If your store sells costumes, party supplies, flowers, fresh food, or traditional German products of any category, the Harvest Festival is the place to be.

New Zealand holiday calendar

Hawke’s Bay Anniversary Day: October 22

All New Zealand regions and territories celebrate a founding day, when workers get the day off. Some regions, like Chatham Islands, keep this very low key, while others hold festive events and shows.

Hawke’s Bay Anniversary Day includes a multi-day event, with fairs, food stalls, games, competition arenas, equestrian events, and more.

As a retailer, you can take this chance to offer limited-time discounts. You can also open a local pop-up shop to connect and engage with your community, trial new product lines, and get on customers’ radar for the upcoming holiday season.

Canterbury Anniversary Day: November 12

Many events spring up in the region around and on Canterbury Anniversary Day. Christchurch and Ashburton have fairs, food stalls with local foods, concerts, and cultural exhibits. This is also the time many people like to go hiking, white-water rafting, mountain biking, and exploring national parks.

From food and everyday products to clothes and outdoor gear, this is a great way for you to serve event goers and outdoor enthusiasts, especially as the warmer season gets underway.

Westland Anniversary Day: November 29

Greymouth, Hokitika, and other cities have some festive events for Westland Anniversary Day, but many people simply use the long weekend off work and school to relax and explore the natural beauty this region offers.

Retailers can use this as an opportunity to connect with locals and tourists who want to spend time in nature, those that want to cook with their family and rest, or those who want to explore the town events. From collaborating with other local businesses to pop-up shops and local marketing activities, there are plenty of options.

UK holiday calendar

Bonfire Night: November 5

Bonfire Night, also called Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night, marks the anniversary of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. On this day, there are celebrations across the UK, with fireworks, bonfires to cook sausages and marshmallows, a traditional Parkin Cake, pumpkin hunts, and toffee apples.

If your store sells either fresh or ambient foods, you’ll benefit from Bonfire Night–themed campaigns, window displays, and product bundles. There’s an alternative option, too: serving those that prefer to stay indoors, cozy and warm, with homeware and decor products.

You can find other unique angles to approach Bonfire Night. For example, fireworks cause many dogs anxiety, so pet stores can create campaigns with content and products that support pet safety and peace.

Mark these important retail dates

Retail holidays are way more than just Black Friday deals and holiday shopping in December. There are dozens of events, both online and off, you can prepare for and participate in to serve your current and future customers.

The key is getting your marketing, inventory, and logistics ready on time. This way, when shoppers are in the mood to buy, your store will become an easy choice for them.

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