Known around the world as a “symbol of the holidays” in New York City, the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree held its annual lighting ceremony last Wednesday December 3 at Rockefeller Plaza. Though some of the performances received…mixed reviews, the star of the show, the tree itself, lived up to the expectations of tens of thousands of spectators, some of whom showed up hours in advance to snag a viewing spot even amid mass protests staggered around the city.
Placemeter sensors in the area measured close to 10,000 people packed in the stretch of Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, the prime viewing section across from the tree. (Because our sensors captured foot traffic in front of the tree, these numbers do not include measurements from the nearby protests.)
During the ceremony itself at 7-9PM on 12/3, the area saw a 160% increase in occupancy compared to the same hours on a regular shopping day. Immediately after the ceremony at 10PM, there was almost a 200% increase compared to a regular day. These numbers are especially impressive considering one side of the street was blocked off, halving the available space.
However, since most of the people on Wednesday were there to see the tree lighting event, we were also curious what the lasting impact of the tree would be on foot traffic in the area after the ceremony. The next evening, 12/4, the number of people who passed by the area was greater by 30% at 6-8PM and a whopping 90% at 8-10PM, compared to a regular shopping day.
This meant that while on a regular day, foot traffic peaked around 7PM due to major retailers like Saks closing at 8PM, the day after the tree lighting, traffic remained high at 8-9PM. Nearby stores open in the later hours until 9PM were likely poised to take advantage of increased attention from greater walk-by traffic due to the Christmas tree.
Savvy retailers could use data like this to quantify the impact of major events near their stores, especially flagship Fifth Avenue shops. Using real-time data about their retail locations and surrounding neighborhoods, they could test displays to attract potential shoppers, adjust hours to coincide with events or the holiday season, and plan future site selection. With holiday shoppers in such a festive mood from their trek to see the tree, it’s likely that they’re also open to do more than just a little window browsing as well.
Many residents of and visitors to New York cherish the Rock Center Tree and its lighting ceremony for marking the start of the holiday season. Perhaps it’s time businesses do the same.
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