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Holiday Sales Guide: The Best Days to Offer Sales

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo

Every business can benefit from offering holiday sales. Here are the best days to run a sale.

  • Offering holiday sales is a surefire way to boost sales and increase your revenue.
  • There are various opportunities during the holiday season to offer discounts and deals, including Black November, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week, Free Shipping Day, Super Saturday and Boxing Day.
  • Holiday sales might look different in 2020, but you can still take advantage of this time of the year by focusing on cyber sales and other promotions or deals.
  • This article is for small business owners who are creating a selling strategy for the holiday season. 

Any small business owner will tell you that holiday sales can make or break their bottom line. In fact, the holidays represent nearly 19% of some retailers' total yearly sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

Consumers and businesses alike are always looking for the next holiday sale opportunity. As soon as Halloween ends, many businesses begin putting out their December 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 get started.

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.

Black November

"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. Rather than limiting these sales to one day, these retailers offer deals throughout the month.

Retailers can meet this demand by offering special deals – both online and in-store – on key holiday gifts, such as toys, electronics and apparel. Especially this year, with most stores operating at limited capacity and many consumers doing their shopping online, businesses need to meet their customers where they are. This will likely mean upping your cleansing game at your brick-and-mortar store to accommodate the influx of shoppers and offering special deals online for those who aren't comfortable exposing themselves in person.

Key takeaway: Many businesses run sales through the entire month of November. In 2020, it's especially important to keep your in-store customers safe and to offer discounts online for cyber-shoppers.

Black Friday

Black Friday, which falls on Nov. 27 this year, is one of the busiest shopping days of the holiday season and has had 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 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. This year, however, Black Friday will likely look different – especially in areas severely impacted by the pandemic. Shoppers won't be able to camp outside of stores or crowd in front of doors to be first in line for the best deals. Retailers will take precautionary measures like limiting store capacity and sanitizing as much as possible.

To have a successful Black Friday and land as many sales as possible, focus heavily on your e-commerce discounts and deals, letting customers shop for your products from the comfort and safety of their homes. Consider extending your usual business hours by opening earlier and closing later on the actual day, but still follow the right safety precautions to keep your customers and employees healthy.

Key takeaway: Black Friday might look different this year, but you can still boost sales by extending your hours and offering online deals.

Small Business Saturday

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.

Small Business Saturday is the day after Black Friday, so it will be Nov. 28 this year. Since small businesses have been hit the hardest during the coronavirus pandemic, there's likely to be an influx of shoppers supporting Small Business Saturday this year.

To gain traction, share personalized marketing content across all channels, especially social media, so you can connect with loyal customers and remind them why they do business with you. 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]

Key takeaway: Small Business Saturday is a great time for consumers to show support for their favorite small businesses. Get personalized Small Business Saturday marketing materials from American Express to promote your participation in this year's event.

Cyber Monday

About a decade ago, e-commerce businesses began noticing that sales increased on the Monday after Thanksgiving, when most Americans were 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; by 2010, it had become the biggest online shopping day of the year.

Cyber Monday falls on Nov. 30 this year. Retailers that sell exclusively online love to run sales on Cyber Monday, but those that have brick-and-mortar as well as e-commerce operations can also take advantage of this shopping day. To take advantage of Cyber Monday, you need to make sure your online store is equipped to handle demand in online shopping from mobile devices. Otherwise, your business could miss out on some big holiday shopping sales growth. Contact a web developer right away to get your online store ready. [Do you need to set up or revamp your online store? Start your search for a solution with our guide to the best e-commerce and shopping cart software.] 

Also, focus on unique promotions only you can offer customers. For instance, you could give customers 50% off their first month of a specific product or service you offer, or perhaps 40% off anything in your store with a discount code. These types of promotion tend to entice shoppers.

Key takeaway: This year's Cyber Monday is the perfect opportunity to meet your customers where they are. To take advantage, offer enticing promotions and make sure your website is mobile-friendly.

Cyber Week

Thanks to the popularity of Cyber Monday and the consumer demand for even more sales, many businesses extend their 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, Nov. 30, and ends on Sunday, Dec. 6

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.

Key takeaway: Extending your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales throughout Cyber Week will keep the sales coming in steady – without putting your customers at risk with in-person sales.

Free Shipping Day

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 amount, with guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve for in-stock, ready-to-ship products. Free Shipping Day falls on Monday, Dec. 14 this year.

Key takeaway: You can celebrate Free Shipping Day by not charging customers for shipping and guaranteeing delivery by Christmas.

Super Saturday

"Super Saturday" is a name retailers use for the last full Saturday of shopping before Christmas. This year, it falls on Dec. 19.

Every year, 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.

Of course, this must all be done with COVID-friendly restrictions in mind this year. That means allowing only a certain number of shoppers inside your business at a time, thoroughly cleaning your store, requiring face coverings, setting up sanitizing stations and more.

Key takeaway: Super Saturday, like Black Friday, will look a little different this year. However, so long as you take the proper precautions, you can still boost your sales by celebrating the holiday.

Boxing Day

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 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 – while maintaining pandemic-friendly safety measures, of course.

Key takeaway: Don't let your sales end on Christmas Day. Take advantage of Boxing Day by planning special post-holiday sales for your customers.

Sammi Caramela and Paula Fernandes contributed to the research and writing in this article.

Image Credit: Prostock-Studio / Getty Images
Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo,
Business News Daily Writer
See Marisa Sanfilippo's Profile
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.