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It’s The First Monday Christmas In 11 Years. What Does That Mean For Retailers?

Want to be nostalgic this Christmas? Put away your smartphone, turn off Netflix, and remember when Amazon didn’t sell groceries or even e-books. This year, for the first time since 2006, Christmas falls on a Monday, and that can bring a lot of opportunities that did not exist 11 years ago.

Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

What difference does a day make? A heck of a lot, now that online orders can be placed and delivered within 24 hours. That’s just the start of what’s changed in 11 years and how it can play out on a Christmas Monday. Among the differences between 2006 and 2017:

Combine all of these factors, and we’ve got a mix for a memorable Christmas Monday.

Monday, Monday, So Good To E-Tail

What does all this mean for shoppers and retailers? Let’s kick it off with $168 billion. That’s the difference in holiday spending between 2006 ($512 billion) and estimates for 2017 ($680 billion), according to the National Retail Federation. How those sales will be made is of greater significance.

Here are a few key expectations.

Cashing through the snow: A Monday holiday may contribute to higher levels of travel in the days beforehand, and this could interfere with last-minute shopping. Retailers can offset the difference by entering the shopper’s path physically, with pop-up locations or kiosks. They can also expedite online orders to arrive at a desired location on Saturday or Sunday. More than half of shoppers said they plan to buy online and pick up in the store this year; many may prefer pickups closer to their final holiday destinations.

Silver bells ring-a-ling on Sunday: A big factor that will shape Christmas Monday is how e-commerce has changed Sundays. The U.S. Postal Service this holiday season is offering next-day package deliveries on Sundays in 20 major cities. Walmart is among the retailers considering the option. This could cut back on foot traffic but also lead to higher sales, since the delivery service would spare tired shoppers that last harried trip to the mall.

Scrooge-free Saturday: Dec. 23, a Saturday, is expected to be the second-busiest shopping day this season, after Black Friday, according to ShopperTrak. This is because its proximity to Christmas will give last-minute shoppers a fallback date while also taking on a sense of urgency. In 2016, the Saturday before Christmas was Christmas Eve, and shoppers acted pretty much as they would on any Christmas Eve, spending less time shopping for special offers.

Returns on ice: With no guarantee that workers will get the day off on Tuesday, the period when returns will be made is more likely to be put off to the weekend. This could mean fewer returns as other responsibilities take priority. While this sounds good for retailers, it actually means less foot traffic. Retailers would do well to hold special events the Saturday after Christmas (with cookies, even).

It may not take another 11 years to see Christmas on a Monday, but the developments shaping the retail experience are more rapidly changing the Christmas holiday, year to year, in more dramatic ways. No reason to wait for nostalgia; it’s coming at the speed of an app-enabled special offer on a new iPhone.

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more on retail, loyalty and the customer experience. 

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