Bah, Humbug to Christmas in July Promos

Discussion
Jul 07, 2011
George Anderson

A piece on The Street website maintains that the number of retailers running “Christmas in July” promotions is down from last year and that’s a positive since the events do little to drive incremental volume.

Among those planning to run promotions hoping to get an early jump on the competition for the winter holiday season are Target and Toys “R” Us.

Target is bringing back its “Back in Black Friday” event offering discounts up to 50 percent on toys, consumer electronics and entertainment products.

Toys “R” Us is running its “Christmas in July” event with discounted merchandise. The Street reports the toy chain has discontinued the Christmas Savers Club it introduced during the event last year.

Nikoleta Panteva, retail analyst at IBISWorld, told The Street, “The Christmas in July promotions put in place last year did not result in a broad-based sales increase, as anticipated. Overall, the promotion’s strategy seemed to be more of sustaining sales rather than boosting them.”

A poll of RetailWire readers last November found most thought there was a small (38 percent) to no (29 percent) advantage to starting Christmas-themed promotions well in advance of the holiday season. Twenty-seven percent said there was a medium to big advantage to be gained by starting early.

Discussion Questions: Will retailers running “Christmas in July” promotions be more successful as others who ran similar programs in the past forgo them this year? Are there keys to running successful “out of season” promotions?

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13 Comments on "Bah, Humbug to Christmas in July Promos"


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Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

If the price is right on certain high demand items for Christmas sold in July, they will do very well, as consumers are quite militant in their shopping habits. Great deals are not going to go unnoticed with families trying to get their kids something nice for under the tree. If you run this type of deal, make sure it is high impact in price, and quality to win over the folks.

Dan Berthiaume
Guest
Dan Berthiaume
9 years 10 months ago

It is hard to say if this year’s “Christmas in July” programs will be as successful as last year’s, but going strictly by my own observations, there is a lot of consumer backlash against retailers promoting Christmas in the summer. Maybe starting the season at Thanksgiving is no longer realistic in today’s competitive environment, but especially in areas with tough winters people don’t want to think about snow when it is warm and sunny. Out of season promotions should be handled with care and not started so early they rankle customers.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 10 months ago

Being a northerner, it is hard for me to get energized into the Christmas spirit when July sweat embraces my brow. My enthusiasm for “Christmas in July” sales ebb greatly without snow or snow flurries.

Out of season promotions should target customers’ needs and emotions of the moment. In hot dog weather few are interested in a warm, fashionable sweater.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
9 years 10 months ago
At some point retailers need to realize you can’t start a promotion any earlier and Christmas in July appears to be that point. Imagine a Christmas in March sale? NO! Consumers want to enjoy each season for what it has to offer and summer is all about kids out of school, outside activities, picnics and days on the beach. Why not create a creative sales campaign that focuses on the current season? Retailers could run special events at the store on Mondays or Fridays for kids that would draw in parents to shop. Imagine a retailer like Target or even Kroger offering face painting and other crafts one or two times each week. I know Michaels Craft stores have had success with this approach. What about a video game contest in store or sponsoring a book reading contest where kids could earn points that they can trade in for store savings? What about a family picnic night where you serve hot dogs and hamburgers outside the store and provide some picnic tables? Everyone who attends… Read more »
Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

We’re in a very different economy than we were in last July and it’s a much better one for retailers. As such, it’s become more and more clear who the strong players are and who is struggling.

There’s nothing like looking at levels of promotion and markdowns to see who has pricing and selling power and who does not. This power comes from a lot of sources ranging from merchandise, store location and financial stability to culture and customer focus. In our experience, it starts with leadership and strategy, which are always more difficult than lowering prices, though immensely more satisfying (and profitable).

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

July is a perfect time for toy stores to promote! — every family with little kids needs a new toy or two to keep everyone occupied. But consumers hope that other retailers avoid this idea; they really, really don’t want to see stores jump the gun and start stocking Halloween merchandise while the temps are sweltering. Please?

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

The key to success is the price. If affordable now, buy it and put it away. That is good for staples like bikes. The downside I am seeing is the popularity of some items today does not necessarily mean they will be as popular in December.

Ben Ball
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

To answer the discussion question in a word — no. Retailers who run them will not be more successful with these off-season promotions because others have learned that they do not work and have stopped. The key to running “out of season” promotions (which implicitly assumes that the merchandise being promoted is seasonal to begin with) is to follow the Nancy Reagan’s advice — “Just say no.”

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 10 months ago
I’m struggling to understand why launching a Christmas in July promo is any better or worse than the other dozens of promos retailers mount every year for virtually every real or pseudo holiday or celebration. Any gripes about Founder’s Day sales? How about Foot Locker’s National Running Day promo? Last month, Food Lion launched an LGBT Pride Month promo. The Container Store had a promo for National Teacher Appreciation Week. And I recall brand sales coinciding with the National Day of Prayer and another for Global No Pants Day. If promos that tee off such occasions help brands to engage consumers and gain a few extra dollars in a tough economy, why tell retailers to back off? I have yet to see any data indicating consumers have forever sworn off a brand for daring to mention “Christmas” before Thanksgiving Day. What’s missing from the Street article is one key piece of information: some consumers are indeed shopping for Christmas gifts outside the traditional calendar-based holiday shopping season. Admittedly, it’s those consumers that brands could do… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 10 months ago

I’m a big fan of Halloween in March. What, you haven’t heard about it? Lots of leftover candy inventory from Christmas and the weather is getting milder for kids fanning out through neighborhoods. Costumes rarely change, but this presents a market for thermally-insulated versions.

And party time? Halloween is the second most popular party date behind New Year’s Eve. Here’s another chance for retailers to sell spirits and for cops to write tickets. Everybody wins! MADD will be mad, but they’re always mad (with good reason, of course, and I applaud their efforts).

Other holiday and special-event “previews” are Mother’s Day in January when flowers are cheapest, Independence Day in May when independent contractors receive the most jobs, and Labor Day in August when more American moms are in labor giving birth than in any other month.

The possibilities are endless!

Kai Clarke
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

This article is wrong in its basis. It assumes that a short-term promotion should have a mid-term impact or longer effects on sales, when in reality, it does not (nor should it be expected to). The key is to drive sales revenues, for the sales period, and a short time thereafter. Consequently, managing the expectations of a retailer’s management around sales promotions is key to its perceived “success.” The name of the promotion is not as important that it is a promotion that drives business during a specific period, just like any other promotion.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 10 months ago

The consumer who will respond to a Christmas in July promotion is not prevalent enough to warrant an in-store event targeting all shoppers. That is why they haven’t “worked” in the past–not enough consumers are interested. However, some are. And the retailer with strong CRM capability who understands individual consumer desires will target these individuals via their desired medium: email, text, direct mail, phone, etc. General store-wide promotions need to either be in season, or be interesting enough to stop the average shopper and make them say, “I need to check this out!” Christmas in July does not qualify….

Cathy Briant
Guest
Cathy Briant
9 years 9 months ago

Talking to fellow consumers (i.e. moms), there is a growing dislike against such promotions. The discounts aren’t deep enough to motivate the spending so far ahead of the actual need, and I know of some people who did buy toys in advance, thinking they would save money, then the items were either just as aggressively promoted during the Christmas season, or weren’t the must-have toy anymore by then.

And, as others have mentioned, some of us have much longer winters than we do summers, and so resent being pushed out of patios and into malls before we are ready!

Promotions in July can serve a purpose, but make them seasonally relevant.

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