Boo! Halloween may be over, but the scary ride that is Peak has only just started. While last year we were treated to Black Five-day, were Peak sales were expected to last just a week, this year, with the whiff of desperation in the air, Peak has kicked off in earnest.
And what a bonanza Halloween has been. When I was a kid, we largely ignored Halloween. These days it is a £500m spend-fest as parents treat their kids to costumers, decorations and, of course, sweets as we all start to celebrate the encroaching darkness of winter.
But could it be a false start? While there has been a flurry of activity around Halloween marketing and sales, other figures suggestthat many shoppers are holding their nerve, saving their hard-earned to spend on Black Friday and the cyber weekend.
Others see Singles Dayon the 11thas the kick off for bumper sales. Alibaba is already pushing the tenth anniversary of the sales spike for sad people.
Some even start their shopping in early to mid-October if not sooner.
The truth is that retailers are itching for someone, anyone, to fire the starting gun on Peak. In the UK, the desperation is palpable, with retailer viewing this as potentially the last of the good times before Brexit takes down the economy.
In reality, Peak is now a series of peaks that run through the year, sinusoidally rising and falling like the Santa’s gentle breathing year round. We have a lift at Valentine’s Day, then Easter, then the summer holidays, then ‘Back to School’ – a new peak for 2018 – then Halloween, then Single’s Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and last-minute man-panic around 23 and 24 December.
Of course, Christmas is the biggy, but retailers should now be on top of this cycle of ups (or dips, depending on whether you are a ‘glass half full’ or ‘half empty’ kinda person). Systems should be primed and oiled ready, stock should all be in the right place and your delivery options ready and steady – and last order dates in time for Christmas agreed and plastered all over your marketing materials.
All you need now are for the orders to start flooding in.
This year it is likely to be different from all other years. While we wait here at InternetRetailing with baited breath for how much will be online, it is likely that we are going to see some interesting shifts in shopper behaviour too.
The rise of Boris – no, not him – will see more people Buy online, return in-store (Boris, see?), ordering from mobiles and using click and collect. In fact, it is likely that this will be one of the weirdest Peaks yet. I suspect that we shall see no pattern to how people shop: it will be online, on mobile and in-store, but mixed up depending on time, date and what the shopper is buying.
I also suspect that stores may yet come into their own. We have lost many established names – largely to ground rent, rather than being hopeless – but shoppers have had a wake up call: if they don’t go to the shops then they won’t be there for much longer.
This ,perhaps, is what Mike Ashley has in the back of his mind as he snaps up yet another failed high street retailer. He’s a canny man… he must have a plan.
Either way this Peak season and Christmas in particular are going to give us a glimpse of ‘future retail’. With my pumpkin now in the bin, I am ready to see how scary the next few weeks are likely to get.