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Here's why the holiday shopping season is so important for Florida's small retailers

Keep St. Pete Local is an independent business alliance in St. Petersburg that has more than 600 members. Many of the local stores hope to see a bump from Small Business Saturday. Photos courtesy of Keep St. Pete Local
Published Nov. 21, 2018

You probably know that many small retail businesses rely on the holiday shopping season to survive.

Just how important is it? Consider this:

In 2017, the best shopping day of the year was Black Friday, which brought in a little more than $3,000 in sales for the typical small retailer in Florida, compared to $1,706 for an average day.

Dec. 22 ranked second. Dec. 23 came in third. In fact, nine of the top 10 shopping days fell between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to some intriguing research from Womply, a provider of small business software.

The firm's number crunchers studied the daily transaction records of 54,000 small, independent retailers across the nation, including 3,691 in Florida. Most of them had 10-25 employees and just one location.

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They broke the data down by revenue, the number of transactions and the average amount customers paid per transaction. In Florida, for instance, small retailers averaged $60,970 in December, slightly higher than the national average and $22,000 more than in September, the worst month.

While many days during the holiday season ranked in Florida's top 40, Small Business Saturday came in at 106th. Cyber Monday came in at No. 45.

Even so, "the end-of-year holiday rush is, without a doubt, the single biggest money-making period for retailers across the country, as well as for retailers in Florida," the report concluded.

Beyond the holiday trends, the report delved into how we shop during the rest of the year, including how the days of the week have their own personalities. Saturdays boasted the most transactions on average -— about 17 — but Fridays brought in slightly more money, a little less than $2,100. Sundays were the slowest for both transactions and revenue.

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Tuesdays were on the slower end in total sales, but people who did shop that day spent $142 per purchase, more than any other day of the week.

It's a recurring trend in the report: Shoppers often spent more per purchase on the least busiest days. In addition, they spent less per purchase on the days that retailers made the most money. Sales and other deals explain some of the difference. Another factor: When shoppers plan to stop at several stores, they spend less at each store, but more overall.

The two best weeks were the ones leading up to Christmas, similar to many other states. Florida's third best — Feb. 26 - March 4 — was an outlier, for which you can thank Florida's popular late-winter tourist season.

Tourism helped Florida's small retailers outpace the national average for sales in most months. The influx of guests throughout the year also helped take some of the burden off of the holiday season, compared to states that attract fewer tourists.

Some other fun facts from the report:

— St. Patrick's Day was the 17th best sales day for small retailers in 2017, better than Valentine's Day (44) or Cinco de Mayo (61).

— Mother's Day (348) ranked slightly higher than Father's Day (354).

— Some small businesses close early on Christmas Eve, which helps explain why it came in at No. 301.

— Thanksgiving Day was super slow at No. 360, only slightly better than Christmas Day at No. 364.

— Bringing up the rear: Sept 10, the day Hurricane Irma roared ashore, shutting down a large swath of the state.

Contact Graham Brink at gbrink@tampabay.com. Follow @GrahamBrink

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