Ask the Experts: Predicting Holiday Traffic

by Steve Pruitt

Q: Last holiday started out great in November and then sputtered in December. Is there any way to understand what will happen this year?

A: It’s hard to know the answer, unfortunately. November 2013 was a great month: holiday timing was right and the weather was on our side. This year we will be up against strong numbers for November, which usually creates an obstacle. On the other hand, the calendar is the same, or only slightly different, and the economy is looking pretty good. The elections this week may sway some consumer attitudes, but who knows for sure.

I would suggest that you look at November and December and plan conservatively (i.e. small, single-digit growth, or your average over the last 90 days). You can always stretch your stock-to-sales ratios for another 10 percent in sales, but the only down side of a stronger sell-through rate is that you will have less inventory left to markdown at the end of the season when you may want to drive some extra sales. The best plan is to stay positive, and make the small adjustments you need to make to help your particular business.