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Is Memorial Day Weekend Crisis-Proof?

2020's Memorial Day Weekend data might surprise you

At Optimove, we’ve been monitoring the effect of COVID-19 on retail sales since the start of brick & mortar closures. The data has shown that some retailers have flourished, while others have been hit hard by the pandemic’s negative effect on consumer spending.

Memorial Day Weekend (MDW) is traditionally considered one of the major retail sale weekends of the year. This year, keeping with said tradition, several retailers flooded my inbox with promotional offers and long-weekend content.

The question is: Now that we are more than two months into the living-with-Corona world, has the long-established spike in consumer spending that happens throughout MDW occurred this year? And what does this mean for marketers?

Optimove Research

We examined the data for several retailers across different verticals by measuring the sales and order volume spikes experienced throughout MDW on Thursday-Monday this year, compared to the prior Thursday-Monday, in both 2020 and 2019, with the goal to understand if the conditions of this year had a negative effect on the typical uplift a retailer experiences.

The data shows that retailers have effectively engaged both existing and new customers, even during these troubling times. The average number of daily orders during these five days increased by +18% across retailers and verticals. While the average daily order amount increased by +27%.

Sounds surprising? Please continue reading to learn which verticals saw the highest MDW spikes and what they are doing differently compared to last year.

Fashion & Athleisure

Some retailers within this vertical had been severely impacted during the first few weeks of COVID-19. But, when comparing this MDW to 2019’s, 2020 stats show that the average increase in Orders was +35%, and in Order Amount was +41%, compared to +30% in Orders and +26% in Order Amount in 2019.

These figures caught us by surprise somewhat.

The uplift in this 2020 MDW was driven by Monday’s sales. Compared to the prior Monday, the average retailer increase in Orders was +97% and +104% in Order Amount. However, the retailers within this vertical that experience the highest overall uplift (+63% in Orders, +52% in Order Amount), exhibited a consistent peak every day of the MDW.

On average, the ratio of new to existing customers during the 2020 MDW was 44% new customers to 56% existing customers. This ratio is consistent with the new to existing ratio seen in 2019, with the most extreme changes being a +6% increase in existing customers in one brand and an -11% decrease in existing customers in another brand.

When looking at average order values (AOV) and average discount amounts per order (ADA) during the weekend, customers across different fashion and athleisure retailers exhibited more disparate behavior. For example, one retailer’s customers showed a 12% increase in AOV, accompanied by a 171% increase in ADA.

Another retailer showed a 41% decrease in AOV and a 40% decrease in ADA, despite a daily increase in orders and sales. This suggests that this retailer focused more on consistent engagement and less on promotional offers.


Shoe retailers also saw some uplift in MDW 2020 compared to the prior week, but the increases were much more temperate in this vertical.

Orders increased on average by +17% and order amount by +14%. During MDW 2019, the increases were in a similar range: +13% orders and +3% sales amount.

Like fashion retailers, shoe retailers were split when looking at this year’s ratio of new to existing customers during the long weekend. Some retailers stayed reasonably consistent in their proportion compared to 2019, while others shifted sharply with a 17-percentage point increase in new customers during this MDW.

On average, the ratio of new to existing customers still tips in favor of existing customers, at 63% existing and 37% new. This metric shows that retailers focused on engaging their loyal customer base, instead of on acquisition efforts.

Again, a metric we would perhaps think would be looking a bit different.

Suprisingly, the uplift in shoe orders was not accompanied by an increase in AOV or ADA. The average AOV stayed stable compared to the week before MDW, while the average ADA decreased sharply: -71% compared to ADAs in the prior week.

This trend is also seen in 2019 MDW compared to the respective prior week, but much less severely – ADAs decreased 33% compared to the week before MDW.

Point blank: shoe retailers benefit from the increased consumer demand that comes with MDW, despite significantly lower discounting than the prior week.

Skincare & Cosmetics

We’ve previously discussed how skincare brands have seen a spike in order demand since COVID-19 began – probably because we simply want to look good on our Zoom meetings when WFH. And due to this already increased demand, it’s not so surprising that the uplift during this year’s MDW was not as strong as last year.

On average, the number of orders increased by +17% this year (compared to +335% (!) last year), and +33% in order amount (compared to +376% (also!) last year).

We also have seen through our COVID-19 analysis that these skincare and cosmetic brands have made a significant acquisition effort. In line with this trend, one major retailer shows an increase of 10 percentage points in the ratio of new customers to existing customers during this MDW compared to 2019.

The question on our mind here at Optimove is: are these new customers valuable customers?

From the data, we can see a gap in AOV of 32% during the week before MDW, with the higher AOV belonging to existing customers. However, this gap narrows when we look at AOV during the MDW itself, with only a 17% discrepancy in favor of existing customers.

It looks like the acquisition effort during the holiday weekend was geared towards higher-value new buyers:

Underwear & Loungewear

This is another vertical that has seen a spike in demand since COVID-19 set in as people are spending more time at home looking to get comfortable.

On average, retailers saw a +5% increase in average daily order volume between Thursday-Monday, accompanied by a significantly higher +20% increase in the average daily order amount, compared to the prior week.

AOV’s increased more during this MDW than 2019’s holiday weekend: +14% AOV in 2020 compared to +1% AOV in 2019 compared to the prior week. This could be due to higher discounting as ADA was up +26% this year, while only +6% during last year’s MDW.

Key Weekend Takeaways

Based on this data, it’s clear that MDW is still a strong weekend for retailers, even during corona times.

The overall message to retailers and marketers might be a reassuring one – following the best CRM practices and carefully tracking your data will help you thrive even in the most troubling of times.

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Rebecca Finkel

Rebecca Finkel, Data Scientist at Optimove. Rebecca has led data integration projects across retail, subscription and iGaming verticals. Prior to joining Optimove, she was an acquisition marketing manager. Now, she enjoys digging into the rich data that retention marketing provides. Rebecca is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School with a BSc In Economics.