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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

The Best Days for Holiday Sales: A Guide for Businesses

image for AntonioGuillem / Getty Images
AntonioGuillem / Getty Images

As any small business owner will tell you, holiday sales can make or break their bottom line. In fact, for some retailers, the holidays represent nearly 30% of their total yearly sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

Just as Halloween concluded, many businesses began putting out their December holiday decor and gift sets. If you own a small business and have not yet started to prepare for the booming holiday season, now is the time to get your calendar out and do so.

As part of your planning, use our guide of dates for the best holiday sales as you craft promotions in your department stores, strip outlet stores that feature retail sales, and one of the most popular places for sales growth, especially during Cyber Week – online sales.

According to the National Retail Federation, "Black November" is a term coined by various retailers that offer Black Friday deals as early as Nov. 1 for consumers wanting to get a head start on their holiday shopping.

In fact, some 40% of shoppers begin their holiday gift purchases in October. Retailers can meet this demand by offering special deals – both online and in-store – on key holiday gifts, such as toys, electronics and apparel.

According to ShopperTrak, which monitors shopper visits to retailers, Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the holiday season, seeing nearly 1.5 times more shopper traffic than Super Saturday, its closest competitor. Historically, Black Friday has been known to have some of the biggest holiday sales in the U.S.

According to Visual Thesaurus, the day after Thanksgiving came to be known as Black Friday in the early 1960s when Philadelphia police officers used it as a negative term to describe the city's holiday shopping traffic jams. The name stuck, and in the '80s, businesses put a positive spin on Black Friday by rebranding it as a day for stores to "get back in the black."

While larger merchants usually rule Black Friday with midnight (or earlier) openings and sales throughout the day, many small businesses offer in-store and online discounts. We also love what the children's apparel company Cubcoats plans to offer: extended deals on Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 for buy two, save 20%; buy three, save 30%; and buy four, save 40%.

Small Business Saturday is all about celebrating local merchants. Started by American Express during the 2010 holiday season, this sale day encourages consumers to "shop small," giving independent retailers a fighting chance in between the huge Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales of larger competitors.

Small Business Saturday is typically geared toward brick-and-mortar retailers, and it continues to grow in consumer recognition, with 108 million shoppers spending $12.9 billion at small businesses across the country in 2017, according to a survey by American Express and the National Federation of Independent Business.

With Small Business Saturday celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, we are seeing an even bigger push by AmEx and retailers to shop small. Merchants are encouraged to visit AmEx's website for personalized Small Business Saturday marketing materials, which include signage and social media content. [Read related article: How to Make the Most of Small Business Saturday]

About a decade ago, e-commerce businesses began noticing that sales increased on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when most Americans are back to work after the long weekend. A marketing team at Shop.org, a branch of the National Retail Federation, officially coined the term "Cyber Monday" in 2005, and by 2010, it had become the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Retailers that sell exclusively online love to run sales on Cyber Monday, but those that have brick-and-mortar and e-commerce operations can also take advantage of this shopping day. Travel deals have become a big part of Cyber Monday, with airlines and travel sites offering bargain flights, and hotels and cruise lines promoting extra amenities and discounted packages.

U.S. online spending during the holiday shopping season is likely to grow 14.1% this year to $143 billion. If your online store is not equipped to handle demand in shopping online from mobile devices, your business could miss out on some big holiday shopping sales growth; contact a web developer right away to get your online store ready. [Read related article: Tech Spending to Surpass $97B This Holiday]

A great example of a Cyber Monday promotion is Ritual's sitewide 50% off your first month of its vitamins. Deodorant company Myro will rerun its Black Friday sale on Cyber Monday: 50% off everything with the code TGIBLACKFRIDAY. Take note: These types of promotions are good ideas to entice shoppers.

Due to the popularity of Cyber Monday and the consumer demand for even more sales, many businesses extend their Cyber Monday promotions for a week, known as Cyber Week. Typically, many retailers simply carry their Black Friday promotions over to Cyber Monday and Cyber Week, according to Digital Trends. This year, Cyber Week begins on Cyber Monday, Dec. 2, and ends on Sunday, Dec. 8. You can boost your Cyber Monday sales by engaging prospects and customers after Black Friday, beefing up your online efforts, and playing to your strengths instead of competing with the big-box stores.

Free Shipping Day is a floating promotional holiday in mid-December that extends holiday sales, promotes new deals and captures the business of shopping procrastinators. It was started in 2008 by internet entrepreneur Luke Knowles, who noticed that online shopping dropped off around Dec. 10, since shoppers were concerned that orders placed any later would not be delivered on time (or would charge excessive shipping fees). Knowles recognized that retailers could ship orders much later in the month and they would still arrive before Christmas.

For this sales day, merchants with an online presence offer free shipping without a minimum purchase, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve for in-stock, ready-to-ship products. The official Free Shipping Day website states that the day will be Dec. 14 this year.

Super Saturday is a name retailers use to describe the last full Saturday of shopping before Christmas. This year, it falls on Dec. 21, which ShopperTrak predicts will be the second biggest shopping day of the holiday season.

Lots of last-minute shoppers are expected to hit big chain stores and small businesses alike in search of deals. Many retailers plan to offer promotional items, one-day sales, competitive pricing and extended hours to attract customers looking to check off those last few names from their gift lists.

In many parts of the world, the day after Christmas, known as Boxing Day, is a national holiday and the biggest sale day of the year. Shopping centers, big-box stores and independent retailers slash their prices to clear out inventory. While it may never be as popular as Black Friday in the States, many U.S. retailers, especially those looking to purge seasonal merchandise, drastically cut their prices on the Dec. 26.

If you haven't planned your holiday sales yet, there is still time to take advantage of some of these big days. Give your small business a boost this season by running specials, offering discounts and hosting events.

Paula Fernandes contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Marisa Sanfilippo

Marisa Sanfilippo is an award-winning marketing professional who has more than six years experience developing and executing marketing campaigns for small and medium sized businesses with a focus on digital marketing. After graduating Stockton University with a B.A. in Communications and minor in writing, Marisa worked as a freelance journalist for numerous publications, ultimately earning a position as an e-marketing specialist for a credit union. While in that position, she earned HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Certification and helped build the organization’s digital marketing strategy from the ground up. Her efforts helped lead the credit union to success on and offline including: a 200%+ organic increase in Facebook followers, a sales generating blog, and much more. Later on, she worked on a social media campaign that gained recognition by The Huffington Post.