Holiday seasons, weekends, and celebrations affect shopping habits so much that planning, budgeting, stocking inventory can be a huge hassle. As early as the 1940s, retailers started looking for solutions to complicated consumer habits. That’s how a retail calendar was born.
Retail calendar is designed to help brick-and-mortar as well as eCommerce stores to plan around the busy shopping seasons. It provides a better understanding of store’s growth and makes planning marketing campaigns a breeze.
In this guide, we will explain the concept behind a retail calendar, its purpose, and how to use it to benefit your business. We’ll also look over what an entire year looks like if planned using a retail calendar and how that differs across countries.
What is a retail calendar?
A retail calendar is a calendar that divides the year into 4- and 5-week months that reflect consumer behavior patterns.
The goal of a retail calendar is to split up the year into periods that consistently have the same amount of weekends, celebrations, and holidays.
The most popular types are 4-4-5 and 4-5-4 retail calendars. Both break up the year into four quarters, which then get divided into weeks based on the respective numbers. It means that with the 4-4-5 retail calendar, the first two months of the quarter last 4 weeks, and the third one lasts 5 weeks. The one recommended by NRF (National Retail Federation) is 4-5-4.
A massive benefit of using any retail calendar is even distribution of weekends and holiday seasons throughout the periods you would normally compare. Those days cause massive spikes in shopping patterns. If, for example, February of 2020 and 2021 had a different amount of weekends, tracking year-over-year growth with a regular calendar would be virtually impossible.
Interestingly enough, retail calendars begin in February. The reasoning behind this is strong though - it allows stores to better prepare for the holiday season and start the “new year” after all the Christmas shopping fever is already over.
Why should you use a retail calendar?
A retail calendar is designed for merchants to have an easier time planning around shopping seasons.
Using a retail calendar comes down to a few main benefits:
- Performance comparison. With a usual calendar, your months will have an unequal amount of weekends. That means you will have a hard time tracking year-over-year growth of sales for these same months. On top of that, comparing sales periods is easier since quarters have the same amount of days.
- Planning inventory and logistics. Retail calendars ensure your high-demand periods are distributed in similar timeframes. It means you’ll have an easier time knowing when your products will be in the highest demand and at which time you should stock up. Also, you will have an easier time planning for busy shipping periods.
- Prepare marketing plans. With a retail calendar, scheduling ads and promotion campaigns never catches you by surprise. If you stick to it, your intense planning periods will always occur at the same time, making preparation a lot more smooth and effective.
- Getting extra help. Foreseeing busy seasons makes it easier to know when your website and staff might have a hard time handling a surge of orders. You can plan in advance by hiring extra temporary help.
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Retail calendar for marketing promotions in 2023/2024
Are you excited to take a more efficient approach to your marketing effort?
Prepare with a retail calendar that begins in February and ends in January. It’s designed that way to ensure intense sales and return periods stay in the previous year.
Let’s give a 4-5-4 retail calendar that’s tailored to shoppers from the USA a more detailed look:
- Winter Olympics - February 4-20
- Super Bowl - February 13
- Valentine’s day - February 14
Valentine’s day has and will always be a shopping craze, so 2023 February is quite an intense month for retailers. Plus, this year it’s also your chance to focus on all sports fans out there.
- International Women's Day - March 8
- Holi festival - March 8
- St. Patrick’s Day - March 17
While not very busy, March is time for celebrations of heritage that are popular among many. With International Women's Day and Holi festival overlapping, you will probably need to take your pick when it comes to promotions.
- April Fool’s Day - April 1
- Easter week - April 8-9
- Get to Know Your Customer Day - April 20
- Earth day - April 22
- World Book Day - April 23
A month of niche and unique celebrations, April of 2023 will only be as intense as you make it by choosing which days you want to or can capitalize on. As a rule, you can’t go wrong with Easter sales. And don’t forget to run some pop quizzes and questionnaires by your shoppers during the Get to Know Your Customer Day.
- Cinco de Mayo - May 5
- Mother’s Day - May 14
- National Smile day - May 31
May is the month for heart-warming celebrations, so make sure your campaigns and promotions reflect that.
- Pride month - all month
- Father’s day - June 18
Pride month is a huge opportunity to show your support to the LGBTQ+ community and spread love through events or promotional campaigns. And don’t forget about Father's day! A lot of children out there are waiting for this opportunity to surprise their dads.
- Independence day - July 4
- World Emoji day - July 17
- International Day of Friendship - July 30
A month of outdoor activities and summertime celebrations as well as monumental patriotic days. Tailor your campaigns to the American Independence day and brighten up promotions to capitalize on World Emoji day to make the most out of July.
- Back to school month - all month
- Book lovers day - August 9
- World Photography day - August 19
Summer is coming to an end, but not shopping sprees. August is huge for any retailer at least remotely related to back-to-school supplies. On top of that, days dedicated to books or photography will serve any retailer selling wall art or books.
- Labor day - September 4
- National video games day - September 12
- Oktoberfest - September 16–October 3
- International Day of Peace - September 21
- World Tourism Day - September 27
From economic milestone celebrations to beer to world peace, September has no lack of occasions. Pick and choose what’s most relevant to your ideal customers and really double down on quality promotions to make sure they don’t disappear in the midst of all retail offers that show up during this month.
- International Coffee Day - October 1
- World Teachers Day - October 5
- Boss' day - October 16
- Halloween - October 31
October is where the pace really starts to pick up. All of the niche yet popular celebrations are crowned with Halloween - one of the most profitable and intense periods for most retail stores that are willing to go the extra mile. Even if you don’t sell body paint or costumes, get creative with your Trick-or-treat banners, Shopify store Halloween design, and sales promotions to not miss out on this huge opportunity.
- Diwali - November 12
- Thanksgiving - November 23
- Black Friday - November 24
- Cyber Monday - November 27
Say hello to all retailers’ most anticipated and most feared couple of weeks, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For a lot of stores, this period makes or breaks their overall retail effort, that’s how huge it is. Plan for everything in advance, from marketing campaigns to surges in website traffic to enormous shipping and customer support demands. If you can get Black Friday right, you’re prepared to handle everything.
Check out our Black Friday preparation guide to help you with the nerve-wracking planning period.
- Hanukkah - December 7-15
- Winter solstice - December 22
- Panic (Super) Saturday - December 23
- Christmas - December 24–25
- New Year’s Eve - December 31
Not much needs to be said about what December means to both eCommerce and brick-and-mortar stores. Remember that unlike during Black Friday, the most intense shopping periods occur around a week before the actual celebration, so plan accordingly to avoid missing out on a lot of profit.
- New Year’s Day - January 1
- Science Fiction Day - January 2
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day - January 15
January is when all the winter shopping spree comes to an end and it’s time to start planning for the new year. Still, don’t underestimate the first two weeks of January, for many people are still going strong - celebrating with friends and relatives, purchasing gifts. Also, January is when people start shopping for their New Year’s resolutions as well as return their Christmas gifts that their relatives couldn’t get right.
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Marketing events calendar for other countries
Some of the bigger markets out there have their own celebrations and shopping habits that shouldn’t be overlooked:
- National Flag of Canada Day - February 15. While not an official public holiday, it is an important day for all Canadians and any stores with patriotic themes are bound to make some extra sales.
- Victoria Day - May 22. Queen Victoria’s birthday is a public holiday with fireworks, festivities and quite a few excited shoppers.
- Mother’s Day - March 19. Unlike most parts of the world, the UK celebrates Mother’s day in March.
- Bonfire Night - November 5. A day that marks Gunpowder plot failure. Nowadays, it’s a great opportunity for food stores.
- Melbourne Cup - November 7. Popular horse racing event that boosts overall sales.
- Click Frenzy - November 14-16. 53 hours of pure shopping. The event was inspired by Cyber Monday and is highly anticipated by many Australians.
- Australia Day - January 26. A day of parades and festivities dedicated to celebrating Australian history.
How to prepare your Shopify store for marketing events?
A retail calendar will help you understand the busy seasons better, but you will still have to prepare for them.
Getting your store ready for celebrations involves a lot of tasks, make sure you don’t overlook what matters the most:
- Take your picks. You can’t target all audiences and all celebrations, you will exhaust your marketing budget and your return on investment will not justify your effort. Pick what your shoppers care about the most and focus on that.
- Shopify store optimization - traffic surges can cause downtime, and that’s the worst nightmare of any Shopify store owner during the busy seasons. Prepare in advance by optimizing your website assets, especially images and videos. Shopify apps like TinyIMG can do all the work for you.
- Plan campaigns - easier said than done, but this is where a retail calendar will truly come in handy. Block time periods based on the actual celebration vs when the first campaigns need to go live vs when you need to start preparing for them to avoid last-minute tasks.
Retail marketing calendar: final thoughts
Understanding what your target customers are looking for is one thing, knowing when and how to present it to them is another. In this guide, we covered how a retail calendar can help you get ahead, avoid pitfalls when planning and provide a better understanding of your business growth.
Don’t hesitate to try it out!
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Frequently asked questions
This year, the retail calendar will have 53 weeks (371 days). The 2023/2024 4-5-4 retail calendar begins on 29th of January 2022, Sunday, and ends on 3rd of February 2024, Saturday.
Retail calendar is optional. If your retail business is of very small scale or very niche, a retail calendar might only cause more confusion. However, for the vast majority of stores, it’s a great idea to adapt to a retail calendar.
Retail calendar peaks towards the end of the year. November, with Black Friday, and December, with Chritsmas and New Year’s Eve, are globally known as some of the most intense shopping seasons.
Merchandising calendar is usually a spreadsheet that outlines marketing campaigns, product launches, sales periods and other notable events for a specific business throughout the year. It’s extremely helpful if a store wants to be one step ahead and always cater to their shoppers’ needs.
Fiscal year is a 12-month period used to organize business plans, activities and understand the scale of growth. It may not align with the regular year. For instance, retailers who adapt to the 4-5-4 retail calendar have a year that starts in February and ends in January.