Changing with the seasons: How shopping habits are affected by the time of year

Seasonality can have a big impact on retailers, both online and in-store. Understanding how different seasons can affect your business will help you prepare for any peaks and take advantage of opportunities to boost sales.


For most retailers, Christmas is likely to be one of if not the biggest seasonal event of the year, where many product categories experience an uplift in sales. But there are lots of other seasonal changes where the impact on demand is more subtle.


Being able to predict these trends allows you to accurately forecast stock levels and tweak marketing for maximum effect. So, what are some of the most important seasonal triggers and how do they shape what people want to buy?


Be ready for the weather

The weather plays a vital role for retailers and can have a big impact on sales. According to a report by the Met Office, nearly half of UK retailers say the weather is one of the top three external factors affecting sales.


This can be anything from the type of purchases people make – if it’s April showers, you’ll sell more raincoats; if it’s a boiling hot July, people tend to buy more garden furniture – to our relationship with the weather. Poor weather, for example, can lead to more people shopping online from the comfort of their own homes, rather than heading to the high street.


Keep an eye out for sales opportunities

Peak sales days and various celebrations can make the difference between a good month and a bad month. Just as a good Christmas can make the year, a productive Mother’s Day can rescue an otherwise quiet March.


Retailers can also create their own peak sales opportunities by promoting new and exciting products outside of the typical retail calendar – and the success of the product/service launch is often season dependant.


Seize the seasonal mood

At a basic level, we are all emotional creatures. And often, our emotions influence what we buy. Although we don’t always notice, the changing of seasons can have a huge impact on our outlook and behaviour. Effective sellers can use these subtle mood changes to sell more products.


Spring is typically a time of growth, renewal and good intentions. Summer, a time of warmth, optimism and good humour. Retailers that can package and market these emotions with their products will find their customers willing to buy.


Forget the winter blues

Seasonal debt is a very real phenomenon. Part of the reason why January can be a slow month for retailers is that many customers will be suffering from Christmas debt hangovers.


The good news is that come spring, the burden of Christmas spending is long gone and people are looking forward to longer days and warmer temperatures. Around Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to test the water by getting creative with your marketing and observing how it affects sales.


Cater to the external impacts

The different seasons also alter the willingness to buy. Scholar Kyle B. Murray and his team researched The effect of weather on consumer spending (2010), and found that the weather, especially the sunshine, can trigger an increase in consumer spending. So in the spring and summer, where the sunshine is more likely, the chance for sales increases.


Of course, there are other external influences which impact when, where and how a consumer shops, which need to be factored in – the COVID-19 pandemic being the most obvious and prevalent right now. Even though we are currently easing back towards physical retailers, this doesn’t mean that we are in the clear. Aside from the virus minimising the number of consumers allowed in a store at one time, there is still the psychological effect of fear and caution which will dissuade many from shopping in-store right now.


As humans, we are affected by the world around us – and this directs us to make purchases in certain ways, consciously or unconsciously. A successful retailer will track the seasons, peaks, and other external factors and turn them into an opportunity for success.

Page last updated: 03 September 2021

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