Small businesses experience sales peaks and valleys through the year that are influenced by local events and trends. But across the U.S., there are patterns that tend to hold from one year to the next. Looking ahead to 2018, here are some predictions we can make for dates when specific product sales and small business activities will peak. Some are probably obvious and others may be a bit of a surprise to everyone except the businesses selling in those niches (and the online platforms that support those sales).

Probably obvious:

  • Lowest retail sales for local shops -- January and February. Cold months that keep local shoppers indoors and a Christmas holiday shopping hangover combine to keep these sales numbers low.
  • Busiest month for florists - February, specifically the first two weeks as everyone gets in their orders for Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.
  • Busiest months for full-service restaurants - July and August. Longer days, warmer weather, kids being out of school and summer vacations combine to encourage everyone to eat out more during the summer months.  I'm not sure whether these factors also encourage visits to bars, but July and August are also the highest months for pubs, brew houses and wine tasting.
  • Day with most sales for local clothing shops - Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, also the day after Black Friday, will likely be the busiest day for local shops selling clothing and accessories.
  • Biggest day for online retail sales - Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. Cyber Monday has been the biggest single day for online sales for more than decade. In the past several years, the annual boom in online sales has continued to spread more evenly across the weeks extending from Thanksgiving to a week before Christmas. But you can expect Cyber Monday to continue as the bell weather day for eCommerce in 2018.
  • Busiest period for shipping retail items - the 6 weeks from Thanksgiving to early January (think about items being returned) account for about 40% of all annual shipping volume.

Likely a bit of a surprise:

  • Biggest sales day for local bakeries - will be March 28, 2018. The Wednesday before Easter is typically the peak day for bakery sales as shoppers place their order for the upcoming weekend.
  • Biggest single sales day for bars - Sunday, May 27, 2018. The middle of Memorial Day weekend apparently makes Americans extra thirsty.
  • Top period that small businesses to decide to fix errors in their online info - summertime (and August in particular) tends to be a consistent peak, according to sales trends Yahoo Small Business sees for our directory listings management product. The peak may be part of their prep for the upcoming holiday boom and businesses wanting be sure mobile shoppers don't get disconnected phone numbers or bad addresses.
  • Top sales day for alcohol (retail, not served) - Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, the day before Thanksgiving as families stock up for libations to accompany their turkey feasts.
  • Top sales day for vape shops - Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, the day after Thanksgiving. This is likely not tied to turkey recovery and is instead driven by Black Friday sales.
  • Biggest sales day for specialty retail, including sporting goods and housewares - Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. The Saturday two weeks after Thanksgiving is typically the highest single sales day for holiday shoppers looking for items they can't find in department stores.
  • Biggest day for gift shops - Saturday, Dec. 8. Right around two weeks before Christmas tends to be the peak for buying small items and stocking up on stocking stuffers.
  • Top period when shipping companies miss their delivery guarantees - one week before and one week after Christmas, according to 71lbs, a company that tracks and processes shipping refunds for small businesses. The refunds are due when the shipper fails to meet their guaranteed delivery times and dates. And of any day of the week, Thursdays have the highest rate of late package delivery. So be sure to watch those days and dates and see if you are due a shipping refund.