The months of November and December are lucrative for many ecommerce retailers. Yet, not every industry needs to ramp for increased sales, navigate supply chain challenges, or plan for shipping delays during the holidays. For some, "peak season" is just "business as usual" thanks to the variable impact of ecommerce seasonality.
Ecommerce seasonality refers to fluctuating consumer demand as a result of recurring external factors. In plain English, ecommerce seasonality is why Shari's Berries is crazy busy around Valentine's Day, the Honey Baked Ham Company is slammed at Christmas, and Bouqs is shipping flowers left and right in the week preceding Mother's Day.
The busiest season of all is, of course, the period between Halloween and Christmas, when many ecommerce retailers do the bulk of their sales for the entire year. While there’s a lot of money to be made for during the holidays, relying on this multi-week stretch of selling alone to make or break the year is also risky—underperforming promotions, understocked inventory, or unforeseen shifts in consumer purchasing patterns can destroy annual results.
For this reason, some ecommerce retailers strive to service industries that aren’t subject to the whims of the holiday shopping season. Below are 5 industries that don't follow holiday ecommerce patterns.
Believe it or now, online automotive (and auto part) sales are growing. And because different seasons present different road-based challenges this industry is stable year-round.
As recently as last year, it was reported that about 30% of new car sales occur online—prior to the pandemic, that number was less than 5%.
Unlike retailers facing holiday-centric seasonality, auto sellers encounter some of their leanest months in the winter. Instead, automotive sales peak in the spring (as the weather gets warmer and shoppers receive their tax refunds) and in the fall when new models are released.
Though the much-lauded ‘lipstick effect’ may not be quite as predictive as Estée Lauder Chairman Emeritus Leonard Lauder initially hypothesized, it's fair to say that sales of beauty supplies and personal care items are consistent throughout the year when compared to other more seasonal industries. Having said that, there's some evidence that seasonality is starting to sneak into this sector.
The pet supplies market—which surpassed $100B in industry sales for the first time in 2020—represents another stable sales opportunity. As long as people have pets, they’ll need pet supplies and care items (including food, bedding, toys, and more) year round.
The pandemic years aside, demand for office and school supplies is quite stable throughout the calendar year, though it does see a spike between July and September for back-to-school—but that's not a holiday-related surge.
No matter what industry you’re in or how much seasonality it experiences, the real key is to understand the purchasing patterns that affect your specific business. With this information, you can better forecast demand, plan your inventory appropriately, and time promotions to periods of increased activity.
Stay on top of trends and new data in your industry, and use any customer sales records you have to pinpoint past peaks. Based on your findings, give yourself plenty of extra time in advance of peak seasonality to manage your inventory and avoid both stockouts and overstocks. Remember, every pattern of seasonality presents the potential for profit. By planning ahead, you’ll be better prepared to capitalize on opportunities as they arise.