26 Shopping Days (Enough) Till Christmas

Oct 23, 2002
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is no longer a valid reason for explaining poor or, for that matter, strong holiday season sales, says a column from Brad Dorfman posted on the Reuters site. This year, Thanksgiving falls on November 28 reducing the number of shopping days before Christmas to 26.

Tom Coughlin, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart’s Division 3 stores agrees. “I don’t make that assumption anymore that there are six less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We’ve got to be prepared to meet whatever customers’ needs are in a shorter amount of time. We’ve got to be in stock.”

Retailer and consumer behavior has changed.

Retailers are beginning promotional efforts for Christmas as early as August.
(See RetailWire, 10/22/02, Retailers Hope
Early Catalogs Catch the Xmas Shopper

Consumers are shopping closer to Christmas according to Diane Swonk, chief economist at Bank One. “People have been waiting later and later anyway because they have been trained that the best deals are at the last minute. Some of the heaviest purchasing now comes between Christmas and New Year’s.”

Ms. Swonk added, “What really matters more to retailers now than anything is weather, which motivates shoppers to spend money on heavy coats and sweaters. What they really could use more than anything rather than the timing of Thanksgiving is a good cold snap.”

This year, availability of product such as apparel and toys, is likely to play a larger role than previously. The West Coast port lockout has many scrambling to find alternative means of obtaining product.

Moderator’s Comment: What factors may influence the
numbers for this year’s Christmas sales season? How can retailers overcome the
obstacles they may face?

We believe it was Woody Allen who said, “Rationalization
is more important than sex. After all, how many days can you go without rationalizing
something?” The answer, if you’re a retailer with slow Christmas sales, is not
even a day. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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