The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the busiest days of the years at malls and other shopping centers around the country, as the prospect of bargain bin televisions and dirt cheap clothing draws hordes of deal-hunters to shake off their turkey-fed stupor.
But those throngs might be missing out on a much calmer and equally effective shopping strategy: hitting stores during the week.
A new report from analytics firm ShopperTrak pegs Wednesday, Dec. 4, as the best day to shop with the least amount of store traffic during this year's holiday season. With one fewer weekend between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 2012, Saturdays and Sundays are likely to be overwhelmed with harried gift-buyers, according to ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.
"There's a reason Black Friday and the Saturday before Christmas attract the heaviest crowds – retailers flood consumers with discounts and special offers on those days," he said in a statement Tuesday. "But quieter shopping days also present their fair share of deals for consumers, along with more attentive customer service and a leisurely shopping experience."
Consider that 38% of shoppers told consulting firm Accenture that they plan to shop on Thanksgiving this year, and that of those, 41% said they'll be out between 6 p.m. on the holiday and 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
The appeal of Black Friday is at a five year high, with 55% of respondents saying they're likely to shop the holiday kickoff event (though more than half of those said they'll be doing their purchasing online).
Women are more likely than men to shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, as are younger consumers, according to Accenture.
A separate report based on transactions made through the Visa network found that half of holiday shoppers intend to spend between $301 and $800; 14% plan to exceed that amount.
Nearly nine in 10 respondents said they will do at least some of their seasonal shopping online; a quarter will use a mobile phone or tablet, exceeding the 22% of people who said the same last year.
Store inventory might top last year's, as import volume at popular retail container ports grew 6.5% in October compared to the same month in 2012.
A regular report from the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates found that in August, September and October – when the bulk of holiday merchandise enters the country – the 4.4 million cargo containers handled represented a 4.3% boost over last year.
"Retailers place their orders for merchandise months ahead of time, so cargo arriving at the ports in October and for most of the rest of the year was ordered long before anybody ever heard of a shutdown," said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy for the retail trade group.
"The question at this point isn't how much merchandise arrived but how much consumers bought, and how they are going to react as economic talks continue in Washington," he said.