Keeping track of trends in online retail can be overwhelming, especially for growing businesses. That’s why many sellers use retail calendars to help them plan their sales and promotions, keep up with industry trends and stay ahead of the competition.
Learn more about the value of a retail marketing calendar and how to create your own. We’ll also get you started with key dates and events that can inspire your business planning, marketing efforts and customer shopping trends.
What is a retail calendar?
A retail calendar is a comprehensive schedule that retailers use to plan for key sales events, holidays and other important dates throughout the year
It’s one way for sellers to coordinate inventory, staffing, marketing and promotional efforts ahead of each season, holiday or special occasion.
What are the benefits of using an ecommerce calendar?
Retail calendars are a visual guide to planning for important sales and events.
When you know what key selling days or seasons are coming up, you can make accurate forecasts, meet seasonal staffing needs and execute promotional strategies.
Here are common benefits businesses realize from using retail calendars.
Better inventory management
An ecommerce holiday calendar provides you with a comprehensive view of the retail cycle, including important sales and events, which can help you avoid stockouts.
By understanding the timing of these events, you can adjust your inventory levels accordingly. This ensures you always have stock on hand to meet customer needs, regardless of the season or event.
A retail calendar is a record of the key dates and events you can target for specialized marketing campaigns and promotional strategies. Historical sales data helps you predict future trends and create effective marketing campaigns around key dates to drive sales and increase brand visibility.
A retail marketing calendar informs your promotion strategy.
For example, when you know a holiday is coming up, you can plan a coinciding sale or discount. Calendars help you plan promotions so they don’t overlap, overwhelm your audience or offer excess discounting that threatens profitability.
More efficient staffing
Retail calendars inform your staffing needs, especially for seasonal businesses. Optimizing staffing levels helps improve the customer experience, reduce wait times and improve order processing and fulfillment.
Holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas are easy to plan for, but other major shopping events change dates each year, such as Easter. Your industry might have its own busy seasons or special events that you’ll need to account for, too, not just with inventory but with the right staffing.
How to plan the year using a retail calendar
A retail calendar is an incredibly valuable tool because it keeps you organized while planning sales events, managing inventory and stock levels, and mapping content and promotional strategies.
There are a few methods for creating a retail calendar, including templates, custom calendars and premade planners.
Find a solution that works best for your business and customize it to fit your needs. For example, a 4-5-4 calendar is a popular tool retailers use to compare sales between years. This includes dividing the year into four weeks, five weeks, then four weeks again.
You might have multiple retail calendars — for example, one to note key events and another to detail your social media content calendar.
These calendars should include key information such as sales or event dates, descriptions, themes, deadlines and which stakeholders need to be included.
Key ecommerce events and holiday sales periods in 2023
Here are key dates and selling periods to keep in mind as you’re planning your year.
January is the month of beginnings. It's the perfect time to kick off the new year with deals that promote health and well-being, for example. After the holiday season, businesses have an opportunity to move leftover stock while offering great savings.
New Year’s Day (Jan. 1): With full spirits and new resolutions, customers are ready to kick off the new year right.
Dry January (Throughout January): This event stems from a public health initiative launched by Alcohol Change UK. Many people give up alcohol and look for other ways to have fun and improve their health and fitness.
Chinese New Year (January or February): This holiday is celebrated in many parts of the world.
February is in the doldrums of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, but it also contains festive holidays such as Valentine’s Day, as well as the biggest sporting event of the year, the Super Bowl.
Social media is a powerful way to promote your sales, create hashtags and polls, and encourage conversation.
Black History Month: This is a time to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to history and society.
National Pizza Day (Feb 9): A celebration of one of America’s favorite foods, no matter what style is your favorite.
Valentine’s Day: The most romantic day of the year and a celebration of love.
Mardi Gras (Tuesday before Ash Wednesday): This colorful and festive event is famously celebrated in New Orleans. In 2023, Mardi Gras is Feb. 21, although sometimes it occurs in March.
Super Bowl (early February): This football game is the biggest television (and advertising) event of the year. In 2023, the Super Bowl was Feb. 12.
As spring arrives, there are numerous notable dates and events, including International Women's Day, St. Patrick's Day, and the first day of spring
These present great opportunities for marketing and promotions. You might launch products, offer seasonal and special collections, and support important causes.
March Madness (mid-March to early April): The popular weekslong collegiate basketball tournament brings out people’s college pride and a variety of shopping opportunities.
International Women’s Day (March 8): This international holiday celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women and calls for gender equality.
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17): This celebration of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, is a time for Irish people to celebrate their heritage and culture.
The first day of spring (March 19, 20 or 21): Consumers are preparing for spring cleaning, gardening and enjoying the outdoors.
Mother’s Day (U.K., fourth Sunday of Lent): Honoring and celebrating mothers is globally appreciated, and this is an especially great time for those in the U.K. to show their gratitude for the love and dedication of the mothers in their lives. This holiday is usually in March, though occasionally occurs in April. In 2023, the date falls on March 19.
April has a range of standing holidays, including April Fool’s Day and World Book Day. And in many years, Easter falls into this month.
April Fool's Day (April 1): A day for playing pranks and hoaxes.
Good Friday (Friday before Easter): This religious holiday commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. While many businesses close during this holiday, it can also see a last-minute rush for many retailers. In 2023, Good Friday is on April 7 for Western Christians and April 14 for Eastern Christians. This day fluctuates between March, April and May.
Easter (Sunday following Good Friday): Continuing from Good Friday, this religious holiday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and is a time for people to come together with their families. In 2023, Easter is on April 9 for Western Christians and April 16 for Eastern Christians. This day fluctuates between March, April and May.
Earth Day (April 22): A day to celebrate the environment and to raise awareness about environmental issues.
World Book Day (April 23): This UNESCO-organized day is a great opportunity to celebrate books and reading.
St. George's Day (April 23): This celebration of the patron saint of England, St. George, is a time for English people to celebrate their heritage and culture.
With wedding season, two bank holidays in the U.K., and Memorial Day and Mother’s Day in the U.S., online retailers need to make sure they're taking full advantage of increased consumer activity.
Star Wars Day (May 4): A day for fans of the “Star Wars” franchise to celebrate their love for the franchise and its lore.
Mother’s Day (U.S., second Sunday in May): The U.S. honors all mothers on this day. In 2023, this falls on May 14.
Memorial Day/summer kickoff (last Monday in May): A day to remember and honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. This is also the unofficial start of summer.
Graduation season (May and June): Students around the country are graduating, particularly from high school and college.
It's time to turn your attention to summer. Pre-summer sales and social media campaigns are essential for ecommerce retailers, while Father's Day is an opportunity for gift-giving and brand awareness.
Pride Month (U.S.): A celebration of the LGBTQ+ community, which began after the June 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City.
Summer sales: The official start of summer is in June, and the entire month is an opportunity for retailers to push warm-weather and vacation-related goods.
Flag Day (U.S., June 14): A day to celebrate the American flag and its importance as a symbol of freedom and independence.
Father’s Day (third Sunday in June): A day to honor and celebrate fathers. In 2023, this falls on June 18.
Summer solstice: The longest day of the year and the start of astronomical summer, marking a time of increased warmth and sunshine. In 2023, this falls on June 21.
Armed Forces Day (U.K. last Saturday in June): A day to honor the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces. In 2023, this falls on June 24.
While July continues the summer season and is highlighted by Independence Day in the U.S., it’s also become a key month for Amazon Prime Day in recent years. While Amazon often waits as long as possible to confirm the exact date, being prepared for Amazon Prime Day’s effects (and opportunities) can pay off.
Independence Day (U.S., July 4): This federal holiday celebrates American independence and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Summer continues: The peak of summer brings warm weather, outdoor activities and vacations, with customers looking for related products and experiences.
As summer winds down, it is the perfect time to sell old stock and start planning your autumn marketing season. With most schools returning in early September, parents and students are already shopping in August to prepare.
Back-to-school season: Many families use this time to prepare for the upcoming school year with clothing and school supply purchases.
End-of-summer sales: As the summer winds down, consider offering end-of-summer sales and promotions to clear out inventory.
The end of summer presents a great opportunity to center your sales and marketing initiatives, whether it's back-to-school shopping or promoting your new seasonal collection.
Labor Day (U.S., first Monday of Sept): Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, as many retailers offer some of the biggest sales of the season. In 2023, Labor Day falls on Sept. 4.
Fall fashions: The weather is cooling, which means customers are looking to update their wardrobes with the latest fashions.
World Tourism Day (Sept 27): A global event aimed at raising awareness about the importance and value of tourism.
October is famous for Halloween, but it’s far from the only selling opportunity in this month.
International Coffee Day (Oct. 1): This day is a celebration of coffee and its significance in the world.
World Animal Day (Oct 4): World Animal Day is an international day of action for animal rights and welfare.
World Mental Health Day (Oct 10): This global event is aimed at raising awareness about mental health and advocating for better mental health services.
Halloween (Oct 31): Halloween presents countless selling opportunities, especially for costumes, decorations and candy.
November is a time for reflection and gratitude as the holiday season approaches, including Thanksgiving in the U.S..
Veterans Day (U.S, Nov. 11): Veterans Day is a U.S. federal holiday honoring everyone who has served in the U.S. military.
Thanksgiving (U.S., fourth Thursday of November): This U.S. holiday is a time for families to come together. It also presents numerous selling opportunities around the holiday shopping season, food and football, among other areas.
Black Friday (Day after Thanksgiving): Black Friday is one of the largest shopping days of the year as customers flock to stores and websites for sales and to buy gifts.
Cyber Monday (Monday after Thanksgiving): Cyber Monday picks up where Black Friday leaves off, as customers move even more of their purchases to ecommerce.
December is packed with religious holidays that are also celebrated widely by nonbelievers, as well as the end of the year and the start of the next. This is the busiest shopping period of the year for many online retailers. The winter solstice also occurs in December.
November and December are great opportunities to tailor your marketing and advertising around the holidays, create helpful gift guides and take other steps to find customers and attract them to your website.
Hanukkah (November or December): Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish festival, commonly denoted by the lighting of candles on a menorah, gifts and traditional foods, among other practices and symbols. In 2023, Hanukkah spans from Dec. 7 to 15.
Christmas (Dec. 25): Most of the gift-buying and additional ecommerce in the fourth quarter is driven by this Christian holiday.
Boxing Day (Dec. 26): Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the U.K., Canada and other countries. It is a time for families to come together, exchange gifts and enjoy special meals.
New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31): New Year's Eve is a time to celebrate the end of one year and the start of another.
Planning for Success
This list hits the high points of major holidays and selling seasons, but it’s far from complete.
Your important selling days and seasons will depend on your industry, your customers’ habits and the locations you sell in. Not every date will be relevant to your business — go where your customers are rather than trying to hit every holiday and occurrence.
Using a retail calendar is just one tool you can use to develop a strategy for ecommerce growth. Check out our top 10 tips for succeeding in online marketplaces.