When does peak sales season begin?

Regardless of what you’re selling, all retail businesses will have busy periods and quiet periods. While these are often industry-specific, certain peak sales seasons apply to the vast majority of retailers. Additionally, some countries will have significantly different peak sales seasons compared to others. A company selling to a range of territories may have a full calendar of peak seasons to keep track of.

To help you prepare your business and ensure peak season success, we’ll look at a range of peak sales seasons in this article, both international and region-specific.

4 traditional peak sales seasons to remember

Consumption always skyrockets during holidays, like national events or religious festivities. This rule crosses borders and cultures and can be seen in almost every country in the world. While the holidays each country celebrates have different dates, peak sales season for most international businesses will generally take place between early November and late January.

1. Black Friday

In the western world, pre-Christmas shopping is the biggest reason for the winter peak sales season. More recently, traditionally American events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday have made late November into an ecommerce peak season, as well as a peak sales season for offline retail stores. Black Friday occurs on the last Thursday of November, and Cyber Monday happens the following Monday: for instance, Black Friday 2022 is on November 25th.

2. Singles Day

In Asia, November is notable for the single highest-grossing day in ecommerce: Double 11, or Singles Day. Double 11 occurs on November 11th, and originated in 2009 as the first winter sale date for the Chinese ecommerce marketplace, Tmall. 

The event’s success means it is now a national event rather than specific to Tmall. It’s also been extended into a true peak sales season, lasting from October 30th until November 12th (although presales can begin as early as October 20th). The revenue generated by the event is staggering: in 2021, USD$84.54 billion worth of sales were generated during Double 11.

3. New Years and Orthodox Christmas

Europe is home to two notable peak sales seasons that fall outside of the traditional November-December period. The first is the Russian ecommerce peak season in January. Russia (as well as neighbouring countries like Ukraine and Belarus) count a significant number of Orthodox Christians in their population, who celebrate Christmas on January 7th. As a result, celebrations are held then, instead of in December.  

Additionally, New Year’s (both the 31st and 1st) enjoys popularity equivalent to Western Christmas, including the tradition of gift-giving — for instance, in 2019, 71% of Russians were planning to give a gift to someone for New Year’s. So for several million consumers in Europe and Asia, increased spending continues into mid-January.

4. Les Soldes

The second example comes from France, where they hold two regulated sales periods (known locally as “Les Soldes”) throughout the year, one in summer and one in winter

These sales periods do not entirely replace the sales individual sales a company might hold, but they are nationally mandated, meaning all shops must reduce their prices for the sales dates. 

Beyond these clearly defined dates, international retailers need to be aware of the general shopping preferences of different regions.  EU shoppers prefer to start Christmas shopping before November, so retailers selling to the EU will need to ensure they can handle higher sales volumes as early as October. 

Similarly, January is one of the biggest peak selling periods in the UK, so any preparations for the Christmas ecommerce peak season should be maintained into the New Year.

Peak sales season preparation tips

The preparations you put into place for peak season will differ considerably depending on your business model. For example, online retailers preparing for ecommerce peak season need to make sure they have a great delivery infrastructure, as the increased volume of sales will put considerable pressure on your carriers.

However, there are some preparations that will help almost any business prepare for the peak sales season:

  • Audit your delivery infrastructure: The ability to move goods freely is essential, particularly businesses that sell across borders. To ensure you’re ready for peak season, a business must make sure there’s nothing that might interrupt the product’s journey to the customer. That means making sure you’re applying the correct HS codes (to avoid delays at customs) and selecting the most appropriate carriers for delivering your goods.

  • Optimise your website: You may have optimised your website for marketing purposes (like completing SEO), but it’s also vital that your ecommerce platform has the plug-ins and software tools necessary to make transactions easy for customers. For instance, can your checkout page calculate the correct tax rates and customs duties for international transactions? If not, you may need to seek out software that can, like AvaTax

  • Remember returns: Following the increased sales volume, businesses will usually see an increase in returns as consumers return unwanted gifts. Make sure you have the ability to facilitate these returns —  you’ll need a reliable courier network and suitable digital infrastructure to register returns. You should also take into account the financial impact of reimbursing a significant number of customers

Make the most out of peak sales season with Avalara

If you’re selling to multiple countries, you’ll need to keep track of their tax rules as well as the dates of their peak sales seasons. However, it can be difficult to stay tax compliant, particularly if you don’t have a background in that country’s tax laws. 

Luckily, Avalara is here to help. We offer free assessments to help you identify any tax liabilities that might come up during ecommerce peak season. For those selling into the US, click here for our sales tax risk assessment. If you’re selling into Europe, click here for our VAT risk assessment.

Avalara can help you stay customs compliant too. It’s vital that you apply the correct HS codes to any products you’re shipping internationally so that you don’t get charged the maximum customs duty. With our Item Classification services, your products can be automatically categorised and have the appropriate code applied to them instantly, allowing you to keep cross-border trade switched on.

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