The spring season proved to be a bit of a zero-sum game at retail, with holiday-related spikes in shopping followed immediately by sales and traffic declines.

In a study incorporating traffic and sales trends for Easter, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and Father’s Day, RetailNext, the San Jose-based company that monitors traffic and sales activity at brick-and-mortar stores, found pickups in traffic followed by drops in the subsequent week.

During the week ended on Easter Sunday, March 24, traffic was 14.3 percent above the seasonal average, a number that declined to 2.9 percent and then further to negative 5.6 percent in the subsequent two weeks.


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Still at minus 4.4 percent the week of April 28, the reading improved, although remained below average, to minus 0.6 percent the week of Mother’s Day, on May 5, and declined to minus 2.1 percent the following week before bouncing into positive territory — at plus 2.4 percent — the week before Memorial Day. It declined but remained on the plus side, at 0.8 percent, during the final week of May.

It slipped sharply, to minus 2.6 percent, during the first week of June, but mounted a comeback to plus 6.1 percent during the weekend ended Father’s Day, June 9.

The study covered more than 500 U.S. cities and more than 40.9 million shopping trips, allowing RetailNext to analyze data based on the days of the week.

On the Friday before Easter, traffic was 47 percent higher than on an average Friday, while traffic on Easter Sunday itself was down 29 percent compared with a usual Sunday. “That makes sense, since so many people are in church or going to their mother’s house for the holiday,” said Tim Callan, chief marketing officer of RetailNext.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day provided a strikingly different pattern in shopping habits.

Sales during the early part of the week prior to Mother’s Day were at or slightly below average for those days of the week but then ran 19, 10 and 13 percent above the average for those Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, respectively, as the holiday neared.

The pattern for Father’s Day was far more evenly distributed with sales on the preceding Sunday running slightly below normal and 8 percent above a typical Monday the following day. From there on in, sales ran near, at or above the 20 percent mark higher than average for the subsequent days of the week — 20 percent on Tuesday, 23 percent on Wednesday, 21 percent on Thursday, 32 percent on Friday and 18 percent on Saturday — before declining to 1 percent above an average Sunday on Father’s Day itself.

“There are a few lessons in that, one of them being that Father’s Day was quite strong this year,” Callan said. “Beyond that, though, the numbers bear out the old cliché that men shop later than women do. It’s usually a male doing the shopping for Mother’s Day, and the dollars come late. And it’s usually a female shopping for Father’s Day, and the numbers are more spread out.”

Callan said the lesson for retailers is clear. “There’s more cannibalization in retailing than many believe,” he said. “Retailers need to acknowledge, when they’re planning their businesses, that there’s only a certain amount of demand that can be marshaled at any given time. What you get on Friday and Saturday, you could give up the following week.”

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