Holiday Central

These charts show which stores depend the most on holiday sales 

Key Points
  • Some retailers are much more reliant on holiday sales than others.
  • $720 billion in sales is up for grabs this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation.
  • Companies that rely more heavily on the holidays are at risk should sales fall short during that time period.
Children pose for pictures with Santa Claus at a shopping mall in Torrance, California.
Patrick Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

For many retailers, the weeks leading up to the holidays are the most important time of year.

In 2017, consumers spent a whopping $687.87 billion during the months of November and December on everything from apparel and jewelry to toys and books, according to the National Retail Federation. This year, the trade group expects sales to increase as much as 4.8 percent to about $720.89 billion.

But all this spending doesn't fall evenly across all retailers. For some product categories, holiday sales make up a greater share of their total business, which means more is at stake for them at this time of year.

Take Gamestop, for example. The video game and collectible retailer made nearly 38 percent of its sales last year during its fourth quarter.

Footwear retailer DSW, on the other hand, earned 25 percent of its sales during the same period last year, meaning it was much less dependent on a stellar holiday quarter. In fact, DSW's sales were evenly spread across all four quarters.

Here's how other retailers compared last year:

While jewelry companies often benefit from bumps in sales around Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, holiday sales were still the most important for retailers such as Tiffany & Co and Signet Jewelers.

Sales in the fiscal first and second quarter were both about 22 percent of Signet's total annual sales, while the third quarter — August, September and October — accounted for only about 18 percent of total sales. The fourth quarter, which took place during November, December and January, accounted for nearly 37 percent.

Tiffany made nearly 32 percent of its sales during its fourth quarter.

Target, too, followed this pattern. Despite holding a successful sale around the time of Amazon's Prime Day in July, Target still relied on holiday sales for more than 31 percent of its revenue in 2017.

Rival Walmart, however, had a much more evenly paced year. The big-box retailer made about 27 percent of its total sales in its fourth quarter.

Companies that rely more heavily on the holidays are at risk should sales fall short during that time period.

For instance, last year, Macy's stumbled on Black Friday when it experienced an issue with its credit card systems, making it impossible for shoppers to place orders online during the busiest shopping day of the year.

While the company was able to fix the issue that evening, the impact could have lingered throughout the rest of the holiday season. Customers who are not loyal to a retailer may be turned off by a bad experience like this and seek out other brands for the rest of their shopping.

Last year, nearly 35 percent of Macy's sales came during the holiday season.