The effect of seasonality on retail sales

Retail & merchandising

The effect of seasonality on retail sales

Category sales in retail often vary depending on specific seasons and events across the year. You should understand the peaks and troughs in category performance across the year to maximise the potential of products on your shelves. Seasonality impacts multiple sections of your business from stock control through to the launch of new products. You will need to make adjustments to these areas depending on the seasonal impact. Seasonal increases can be thought out logically, simply think about the purchase trends within the season and events that relate to the category.

If we take smoking cessation as a prime example for seasonal adjustment, there are 3 peak periods in the year:

  • New Year, new you: January to February
  • No Smoking Day: March
  • Stoptober: October

The performance of the category relies on these periods as this is when the majority of sales are driven. New Year is the highest performing season for smoking cessation, as New Year's resolutions help to drive determination and will power.

Stoptober is now also a major player as the event continues to grow with a wealth of advertising. Most pharmacies now take part in Stoptober, using the opportunity to drive sales and boost customer loyalty.

To review the uplift of a category in peak season, you can analyse your sales from previous years focusing on the same point in time, to review the uplift in comparison with the base sales from rest of the year.

Adjusting your retail display to maximise sales

During key seasons you can use your sales data to help you re-arrange your shelving space to accommodate the category peaks. For example, the uplift in sales of sun care in summer is so great that the space allocated to the category usually doubles or triples. Some retailers will reduce the space down to just 1 or 2 shelves of sun care in the winter months, but in the summer it will be separated out to a dedicated bay.You may also wish to re-adjust the layout of your pharmacy to maximise the performance of seasonal categories. For example, you may wish to position sun care near to the door to increase visibility from outside your pharmacy.

Re-arranging seasonal categories so that they are adjacent to one another can help encourage cross-purchases.

Travel health, sun protection and first aid may be purchased together in preparation for a trip the customer is going to take. This will also offer you the chance to promote your travel vaccine service using point of sale.

Launching new products in peak season

The sales for seasonally affected categories fluctuate throughout the year. You need to think logically about the ideal time to launch new products.

  • Peak season creates the perfect opportunity to launch your new products by introducing them at a time when the category is performing at its best.
  • Consider when the supplier is advertising and ensure the new product is out on your shelves in time for the start of the marketing plan.
  • Check your competitors to see who else has launched the product and how they are promoting it to ensure you are making the most of the launch.

Maximising seasonal potential through the use of pricing and promotions

Customers love a bargain, promotions boost customer interaction and in turn, sales. Seasonal peaks offer you a window to maximise sales opportunities for the category.

To drive volume implement multi-buy promotions on the lines that customers are likely to buy more than one of. For example, customers may wish to bulk buy sun cream before their holiday and will appreciate the opportunity of a multi-buy discount.

You may want to run cross category promotions for multiple products available in peak season to encourage customers to make multiple purchases across different categories such as vitamins and cold & flu.

Challenge yourself to beat your performance from last year; it is a great learning curve!

We're here to help

There are a number of things to look out for in your OTC pack to help successfully promote seasonal items and ensure you are on track with key events. Each month in The WholeSale we run themes and logos for relevant products and inform you of upcoming health events. These help you to choose appropriate products to promote within your business in order to gain maximum benefits from your promotions. For some of the key themes, we provide additional point of sale to help you promote big name brands and draw customers to your offering.



Seasonality can have a significant impact on the performance of different categories. Maximise category potential by adjusting various aspects of your business including space allocation, product merchandising and promotional strategy to allow for category growth in these peak seasons.

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Retail & merchandising