Nordstrom Doesn’t Do Christmas Early or Does It?

Discussion
Oct 20, 2011
George Anderson

It seems that with each passing year, retailers are getting earlier and earlier starts on promoting items for Christmas. Not all consumers like the practice, but as a RetailWire poll last November showed, most (65 percent) thought that an early start amounted to a competitive advantage during the holiday selling season.

One retailer that has held out against an early start has been Nordstrom, which has maintained that stores won’t get dressed up for Christmas until Black Friday. At least that’s what people in Seattle thought until they saw the windows at Nordstrom’s downtown store there.

According to a report (along with photos) by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the store’s windows include golden jingle bells decorations and messages such as "Create the joy" and "Mingle before the jingle."

Brooke White, a spokesperson for Nordstrom, said the store’s windows were not a Christmas display (everyone would see what a Christmas display was on Black Friday), but a nod to the spirit of entertaining.

"It’s really kind of speaking to the season of getting together," Ms. White told the news site.

As to whether Nordstrom was splitting hairs with its explanation, a poll on the Post-Intelligencer site found that 57 percent thought the windows were "obviously all about Christmas and New Years," while only 18 percent thought the displays were "not holiday decorations."

Discussion Questions: Can any retailer today still afford to wait until Black Friday to start making the push for Christmas? Does Nordstrom have anything to gain by holding its position?

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12 Comments on "Nordstrom Doesn’t Do Christmas Early or Does It?"


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Richard J. George, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

As noted in last year’s article, early Christmas displays are annoying to consumers. The real issue is the trade off of potential lost sales from annoyed customers to potential increased sales by early reminders. Black Friday is only a date on the calendar any more. If data suggests that holding off provides a differential advantage and therefore increased holiday sales, then hold off. Otherwise, display away!

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Consumers continue to purchase later and later in the season. So why should retailers start earlier and earlier? There is little or no risk from a revenue point of view to start later. The later the retailer starts, the better the bottom line (profit).

Kevin Graff
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Authenticity. Trust. Transparency. Credibility. These (and many other) words often describe the best performing retailers today. Rushing out Christmas displays and promos in October does nothing to build credibility or trust. It’s just annoying and desperate looking.

Consumers are smarter than ever … retailers need to keep up.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 6 months ago

Bringing out holiday decorations earlier and earlier has always struck me as something retailers do for themselves, not for their customers. Customers wait for the price promotions. Playing “Jingle Bells” in October doesn’t change that a bit.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
9 years 6 months ago
If it looks like a jingle bell and sounds like a jingle bell, then it’s a jingle bell. Nordstrom seems to be tying itself in needless knots by trying to adhere to a self-imposed holiday decorating timeline. Retailers need to be responsive to what consumers want and how they live. In this case, more consumers are getting an early start on holiday shopping. That said, early holiday shopping doesn’t mean merchants must decorate before Black Friday. Consumers are going to participate in that early shopping behavior regardless of whether the store is decorated. But if a merchant wants to be perceived as a store where early holiday shoppers can shop and that merchant wants to entice those consumers, then the retailer will likely need to decorate earlier and create marketing materials earlier. Nordstrom isn’t likely to lose any customers who roll their eyes at the retailer’s senseless protests that the window’s holiday decorations are not what they really are. But the more serious question Nordstrom must grapple with is whether the brand is being responsive… Read more »
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 6 months ago

Nordstrom’s is missing opportunities by holding out. I like being different but not in this case. You have a limited window of time to unload and sell for the Christmas season and each year; every selling day becomes more important. We are dealing with a negative consumer who isn’t going to want to spend wads of cash in your store. Annoying or not, you need to force the customer to think about Christmas as soon as possible. And as for the window treatments, why double talk? It’s obviously a Christmas display (unless Create the Joy is now a Halloween moniker?).

Kenneth Allan
Guest
Kenneth Allan
9 years 6 months ago

I always get a kick out of this topic. I’m 50 years old, and as a kid growing up in the ’70s, Two Guys used to start setting up their Christmas Departments in September, and the grand department stores in downtown Newark used to have all the glitter and trim up by November 1.

Retailers pushing the Holiday Season forward each year is hardly news, and I guess some people like to remember a past that is very different from what it really was.

Nordstrom does wait too long to get its Christmas on.

Brian Kelly
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

The store is but one medium or channel in the retail brand communication mix. While Nordstrom chooses not to decorate for the holidays before T-Day, all other channels aggressively brand the outlet as a gift destination, a source of merchandise that will delight once wrapped and topped with a ribbon.

Phil Rubin
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Nordstrom is exceptional for many reasons and one is its discipline around customers and value. Unlike others in their space, they don’t run sales every day (only twice a year in fact), they put customers squarely at the center of their business and they get the irrelevance of Christmas in October.

The sign posted is thoughtful and speaks to customers. An informal survey of friends and clients is unanimous in support.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
9 years 6 months ago

Are you like me, annoyed about being annoyed? It requires too much energy to get all huffy, bothered, and judgmental about stores celebrating Christmas earlier than some arbitrary calendar each of us carries in our head. If an early Christmas display offends you, I recommend not looking at it. Problem solved! If retailers find it beneficial and competitive to jump into holiday sales mode early, why shouldn’t they? I think it’d be cool to celebrate Christmas year ’round!

Merle Zamansky-Coen
Guest
Merle Zamansky-Coen
9 years 6 months ago

Do they have anything to gain? Are you kidding me? This is my favorite marketing of 2011. It’s the ultimate “we heard you” ploy. The general public is inundated with Christmas way too soon and they feel the holiday stress. Nordstrom played right into this and said “don’t stress, it’s too early.” I love this — great job.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
9 years 6 months ago

Realistically, no retailer can afford to wait for Black Friday to start making the push for Christmas, but how early they start is another question entirely. Maybe from Halloween to New Years Day should be lumped into one big category — Happy Celebration Day/Month/Quarter! For the activities, gift giving, parties around the world during this period have a striking similarity. The only difference is the weather, which changes rapidly from October to January. I think that more than anything else puts the shoppers in the mood, or not. And we all know you can’t do anything about the weather — so lighten up!

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