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Christmas Sales Went Quiet in 2018: What This Means for Retailers

When you look at a year on year chart of e-commerce sales, it might be easy to assume that sales are healthy.


After all, if you look at the graph, you can see an impressive increase from 2008 to 2018.

However, when you look closer at the data, what we actually find is that sales decreased around Christmas Day.

There are many reasons for this. Most obviously, people were not spending money simply because they were either spending time with their loved ones or had already purchased gifts.

If you run an e-commerce store, you might have seen your own sales fall on Christmas Day.

However, the good news is that they increased from Boxing Day.

In this article, we’re going to look at the data, see why the decrease happened and what that means for you as a retailer moving forwards.

Let’s go!

E-marketer’s predictions: wrong?

Data from eMarketer showed that there was potential for the 2018 U.S online retail sales during the holiday period to increase to 106billion dollars. This would be an increase of 16.6% from 2017.

An ambitious prediction?

Perhaps, but that data was sourced from the Black Friday and Cyber Monday revenue which was particularly good.

In the graph below, you’ll see these forecasts and without looking retrospectively, you can understand why they came to those conclusions.


Because of Black Friday and Cyber Monday were so effective in terms of sales numbers it doesn’t seem out of line for them to have a huge forecast.

In fact, when you look at the data from MasterCard, what you actually find is that the period from 1 November to 19th December sales were higher than they have been since 2005.

In this gif you can see over the Christmas period, traffic in terms of how many people were browsing decreased.Again, we could put this down to the fact that people have already prepared and bought their gifts.

Is there a reason for the decrease?

Despite 60% of people feeling comfortable spending their money online (to buy gifts), there was still an overall decrease in sales. Let’s look further into that.


What we also need to keep in mind that although sales were down online, they could’ve increased in store.

Think about it.

You’re about to order gifts for your friends and family, however, you need to make sure that they actually arrive on time.

Because of this, it seems logical, then, that coming up to Christmas, there would be a decrease in the number of sales due to the fact people don’t want to miss delivery dates and risk the items not arriving in time.

Mobile, tablet and desktop usage

Given that people are now free to shop how they want and when they want, it should come as no surprise that mobile browsing and purchasing increased during this holiday period.

Because of this, e-commerce retailers need to make sure they spend a significant amount of time optimizing the other versions of their store.

This includes ensuring all versions are responsive and improving the UX and UI of each site to encourage more sales.

Boxing day

The day after Christmas, Boxing Day is celebrated mostly in the UK. This is also where sales increased.

For UK based retailers and shoppers alike it’s a busy time as it’s when the shops reopen and sales begin.

So whether you’re rushing to return unwanted gifts or looking to snag a bargain, Boxing day is usually the first day this begins,


We can see in the table above that even in the US there was an increase in sales. This is probably due to the fact many retailers would reduce the price of the products.

Those people who received money for Christmas?

They now have an opportunity to spend it and buy discounted items.

Predictions for 2019

So what does this mean for the new year moving forward?

Well, we predict that as the year goes on and specific e-commerce calendar dates arrive, we’ll see peaks and troughs of sales.

Of course, by the time it’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we expect to see online sales increase again.

However, the rise in AI like voice search and mobile and tablet search will increase.

This means that retailers need to get on board with these new technologies to ensure that they’re fully prepared for increased traffic and the new level of omnichannel choice shoppers have.

When it comes to buying from you, shoppers are inundated with choice. Point being, they don’t even have to buy from you.

If they’re determined to buy from their tablet, there will be a retailer available with a good price and good tablet optimization.

If they’re determined to buy in-store, there will be a retailer available to help them.

What we mean by this, is the power is now in the consumer’s hands.

You need to make sure you’re readily available at all times wherever the customer wants to buy.


The data clearly shows a decrease in sales on Christmas Day with an increase the day after.

Now, this shouldn’t come as a surprise given the fact that most people choose to spend Christmas with their families.

With that said, analyzing the entire Christmas period is important to help you understand the nuances of selling your products during this high-sale period.

When you understand how people browse, what they buy and what they’re looking for, you’ll be better equipped for preparing for the holiday season 2019.

Make sure that your entire website, (including the mobile and tablet versions) are optimized for sales as there has been a significant increase in the number of people using these devices to make purchases.

Did you see an increase or decrease in your Christmas period? Leave a comment below.


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