In some European countries Christmas is not the only major holiday to be celebrated in December. In The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of Germany, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas day) is celebrated in early December. Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany celebrate on the morning of the 6th; while the Netherlands celebrate on the evening of the 5th. This holiday has been celebrated since the 15th century, with various markets and presents for children.

Due to the complaints from many Protestant Christians against this mainly Catholic celebration, the holiday has evolved into a children’s holiday. A man dressed up as Sinterklaas with men and women dressed as his helpers arrive via steamboat in a Dutch or Belgium Harbor around the 15th of November. Arriving 3 weeks prior to his celebration date, shops have the opportunity to exploit this holiday all the way through November.


This holiday is not only celebrated with (luxurious) presents, but also with sweets, decorations and luxurious dinners – a great opportunity for retailers to maximize sales through promotions. In 2013, online and offline retailers booked €500 million profit on top of their normal sales, of which €225 million was made by online retailers. This came down to an extra 47% on their weekly online sales between November 1st and December 5th. This was a growth of 20% compared to 2012, and a growth of more than 300% since 2009. It is expected that 2014 will be another record year of profit around Sinterklaas.

Figure 1 extra turnover during Sinterklaas – data source:

A study by MarketingFacts indicated the shift between online and offline sales will increase in the coming years. It is expected that the online sales will not replace offline sales, but rather complement each other. The physical shops create an experience with decorated shop windows, markets and Sinterklaas meet-and-greets in shopping centers. This is an experience that most people do not want to lose, but they also want the convenience of being able to shop wherever they are and do it 24/7. The Dutch are generally known to be price conscious and compare prices for almost everything they buy. If they can find their presents cheaper online, and generally online retailers can be more competitive, most Dutch will purchase online.

Digital Marketing

Next to advertising via the traditional channels (TV and radio), Sinterklaas has found its way to social media and email marketing. Because the e-commerce around Sinterklaas is growing every year, retailers are trying creative ways to draw consumers to their online store. Large online retailer – comparable to Amazon – uses rhyme in their email campaigns, as rhyming is a tradition when giving presents with Sinterklaas.
In 2013, the first Sinterklaas email…