Super Saturday was neither a blockbuster nor a blooper.
Reports pouring in from trade organizations and tech companies show that traffic levels were flat or behind those of Super Saturdays in 2021 and 2019, though this year’s turnout was still huge, with steepening markdowns and favorable weather encouraging people to get out and shop for gifts.
Placer.ai, a location analytics firm that provides foot traffic data, found that indoor malls, outlet malls and open-air lifestyle centers all saw traffic levels fall below Super Saturday last year and Super Saturday in 2019.
However, compared to the average traffic of the six previous Saturdays this year, all three of those retail sectors were double-digits ahead, reflecting a buildup in shopping as Christmas nears.
Sensormatic, which provides solutions for inventory management and loss control, found that shopper traffic on Super Saturday was up 0.2 percent compared to 2021. The firm’s findings indicate that compared to the previous two Saturdays, Dec. 3 and 10, Super Saturday shopper visits increased by 36 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
The ICSC last Saturday took a survey of 1,012 U.S. consumers and estimated that 73 percent — 189 million people — shopped that day. That’s way more than the 158 million estimated by the National Retail Federation, which surveyed 7,857 consumers from Dec. 1 to 7, in conjunction with Prosper Insights & Analytics.
“Shoppers frequented stores on Super Saturday, aiming to get the best deals and making sure they get their gifts on time before the holidays. While inflation and price concerns are still impacting where and how consumers buy gifts, they are still spending, particularly at physical stores,” Tom McGee, president and chief executive officer of the ICSC, said Tuesday. “We expect last-minute shopping to continue this week and anticipate a strong conclusion to the holiday season.”
It should be noted that survey results from different sources vary because methodologies differ, depending on the size of the survey samples, the questions asked, and the timing.
This year, Super Saturday traffic and shopping were limited by early holiday marketing pulling sales into October and November, and away from some key days like Black Friday later in the season.
In addition, high inflation on nondiscretionary categories, in particular food and home energy costs, impacted Super Saturday, and there is a trend toward consumers purchasing more on experiences, like travel and restaurants, and less on stuff. It’s also important to note that last year was a strong holiday season at retail, making this year’s comparisons tough.
Generally, Super Saturday (Dec. 17 this year) fell in line with expectations and did little to change the uncertainty and caution pervading the industry. The next few days are crucial, with significant last-minute shopping anticipated, though so far retailers for the most part are OK with the level of holiday business they’ve had. There is also an extra Saturday this year, with Christmas Day falling on Sunday, which should give retailers a late lift.
Placer.ai, which uses technology to monitor traffic, reported that most retail venues saw negative traffic on Super Saturday this year versus last year. Indoor malls were down 4.6 percent; outlet centers were down 2.6 percent, and open-air lifestyle centers were minus 7.3 percent, according to Placer.ai.
Compared to Super Saturday 2019, indoor malls were down 14.8 percent; outlet malls were down 12.6 percent, and open-air lifestyle centers were down 17.5 percent, Placer.ai reported.
However, Super Saturday did see a surge in traffic compared to the past six Saturdays of this year’s holiday season, with indoor malls up 34.5 percent; outlets up 33.2 percent, and open-air lifestyle centers up 21.7 percent, reflecting the general trend in 2022 toward more shopping at physical stores.
In other Placer.ai traffic statistics on Super Saturday this year versus 2021:
- Discount and dollar stores fared the best, up 1.1 percent.
- Department stores were down 9 percent.
- Clothing stores were down 1.8 percent.
- Recreational and sporting goods stores were down 5.9 percent.
“Super Saturday presented a continuation of a trend seen in recent months — a more extended holiday season limits the peaks of any specific day,” said Ethan Chernofsky, vice president of marketing at Placer.ai. “Most categories and chains analyzed saw visits down compared to both 2021 and a pre-pandemic 2019, though there are significant extenuating circumstances. The distance of Super Saturday to Christmas is important. There is even more time for shopping ahead of the holiday and ample evidence that the lack of major doorbuster deals limits the urgency on any specific day. In addition, as seen earlier in the holiday period, minor year-over-year declines could be offset by more significant visits. Whether it be because of larger basket sizes or extended discovery in an offline environment driving online sales, the magnitude of visits is clearly different than what it was a year ago, and especially compared to pre-pandemic. Finally, it’s critical to note that Super Saturday, like Black Friday, still drove massive visit peaks for most chains and categories examined. The key takeaway is that like many other retail holidays, while the relative peak may have declined, the overall importance is still massive.
“Yet there are chains and segments that did overperform. Ulta continued to show its strength, and the strength of the wider beauty category, with visits up compared to both 2021 and 2019. Off-price retail leaders like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and Ross also saw visits up year-over-year, with others in the category either seeing similar growth or visits at nearly the same level as a year prior… Finally, the discount and dollar segment saw growth likely driven by the draw of their value orientation and wide product array ahead of the holiday.”
In other Super Saturday statistics from the ICSC, 71 percent of shoppers spent money on holiday gifts, while 40 percent spent on dining and 22 percent spent on entertainment.
The number-one reason consumers shopped on Super Saturday was to take advantage of deals and promotions for lower prices (39 percent), followed by still having more people to buy gifts for (37 percent) and buying additional gifts for people (33 percent).
Seventy percent of consumers shopped in a store on Super Saturday, while 29 percent shopped at Amazon or other pure-play online retailers, and 90 percent said inflation impacted their shopping that day, according to the ICSC.
Shoppers identified the lowest prices (51 percent), in-stock products (46 percent), and ease of checkout (36 percent) as the primary factors in choosing where to shop.
Fifty percent of shoppers took advantage of buying online and picking up in-store. Fifty-four percent of shoppers noted they spent more than they planned.