Retailers Push Christmas Against Consumer Wishes

Discussion
Nov 10, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Among the many pet peeves consumers have about the way retailers
do business is the promotion of Christmas sales way before the actual holiday
selling season begins in their minds.

Some merchants have run "Christmas
in July" promotions and it has
become commonplace for retailers to announce holiday discounts well before
kids have headed out on their candy-collecting rounds for Halloween.

A report
on the DailyFinance site listed "promoting Christmas items
before Thanksgiving" among the 15 most annoying habits of retailers.

According
to Consumer Reports, only eight percent of consumers plan
to have all their Christmas shopping done before Thanksgiving. Roughly one-in-four
expects to have all their shopping done right after the holiday.

"Our readers are pretty divided on the whole Christmas Creep thing," Chris
Morran, senior editor at Consumerist.com, told Advertising Age. "There
are those that find it truly offensive and gaudy and unnecessary. And there
are those that don’t care at all and those that actually like it. … People
are, sadly, getting used to it."

Mike Gatti, exec director of the Retail
Advertising and Marketing Association, told Ad Age that more merchants
are getting out early with their promotions this year. "It’s a chance
to get out there and grab some market share," he
said.

Discussion Question: What do you see as the pros and cons of early
Christmas promotions?

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17 Comments on "Retailers Push Christmas Against Consumer Wishes"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

There is a market for early gift shopping, and it’s a good way to drive business (especially in apparel) when the weather gods conspire against sales of sweaters, coats and scarves. The question seems to be when and how to promote “holiday” in terms of advertising, e-commerce and in-store decor. Most consumers seem to have an aversion to seeing stores talking “holiday” until after Halloween, but once November 1st rolls around the gloves can come off. (After all, retailers have about six weeks to drive the majority of the year’s profits…and some regions of the country will be affected by very early Hanukkah timing.) The trick is to sell seasonal apparel and gifts early without appearing to push the calendar too much.

Joel Rubinson
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

In a long-tail world, people want options. One of the options they want is to shop whenever they want to shop so why wait until Thanksgiving? Old thinking maybe? I know people who do all their Christmas shopping well before Thanksgiving.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
10 years 6 months ago

Here’s the problem: if you don’t promote early, others will and you will lose sales. ‘Santa’ comes to our local mall this Friday, and most of the mall’s holiday decorations are already up. Some of our neighbors started putting up Christmas stuff as soon as they took the Halloween decorations down, which had been up in some cases for as long as six weeks. So, you just gotta “go with the flow.”

Bob Phibbs
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

There are only so many weekends prior to the holidays so I have no problem with Christmas Creep. I do, however, worry about how it is presented to employees who may moan “they’re already playing holiday music” to all your customers which, of course doesn’t help to make it a holly jolly holiday….

Paul R. Schottmiller
Guest
Paul R. Schottmiller
10 years 6 months ago

I guess the question for me is whether or not it causes any negative behaviors among customers. It is one thing to bemoan it or be annoyed, but does it really negatively impact shopping behaviors? For sure, it does help for the “shop early segment.” Also for retailers, aside from getting some of their money earlier and possibly letting them compete more effectively, it may create a more even flow of inventory (labor/space), and more time to sense and react to market dynamics. It appears without a corresponding negative, retailers and some consumers benefit.

Personally I keep it segmented…Christmas is something I worry about after Thanksgiving, not before. Seeing stuff in the store early has never caused me to not shop there, buy less, or not return when I am in the Christmas mode.

Mark Burr
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
Driving home last night I pressed the button on the dial and realized that a local radio station had begun their yearly non-stop Christmas music. It used to be Thanksgiving to New Years’. This year to get them removed from my pre-sets, they started on November 1st! Target announced this week an interesting approach that they will be backing off of ‘Black Friday’. While they will participate, they won’t be participating at the level of years past and as others will be this year. Their reasoning? In a recessionary period, they expect consumers to delay purchasing to closer to the holiday to take advantage of discounting. Retailers will all make their choice. I remain of the thinking that the holiday period is the holiday period. It’s best left between Thanksgiving and Christmas regardless of how Thanksgiving falls and the impact to the total number of days in that period. The more it is diminished as an ‘event’, the more it is diminished. The idea that you will lose sales otherwise simply doesn’t meet logic. The… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Starting Christmas while it is still hot outside is a great idea!
* It helps consumers figure out which retailers they do not want to patronize. (A little Santa with your bathing suit?)
* It provides the opportunity to focus consumers all year. Why not promote Halloween in May, and back to school in February? It’s all about market share, right?
* Layaway programs let people purchase gifts they probably can’t afford any other way.

You have really gotten me in the mood. I think I will go hum some Fourth of July carols…!

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I am a traditionalist. Holiday shopping and promotions should be centered between Thanksgiving & Christmas or Hanukkah as you prefer. Personally, I have no issue with promotions beginning just prior to Thanksgiving. But I prefer the sales, bargains and music not begin until after the turkey is eaten.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Cain’t hardly see anything under the heading of Pro. Anyone who wants to start shopping early is going to do it; anyone who finds early promotions annoying is going to get annoyed.

In terms of beating the competition – or at least keeping up with them – anyone who likes a store or its products is going to check them out whenever they’re ready. Promotional escalation is purty much the same as any other type of warfare.

On a practical note, I can see the advantage, of course, for retailers in getting money in more evenly and for a longer period but is there really much likelihood of re-stocking sell-out items? Or will that be yet another source of irritation (and lost business) to customers?

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

The extension of the Christmas retail season has a numbing effect. It loses its sense of being special and most important, it loses its urgency. I am with “Scanner” on this one!

Lee Peterson
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I guess you could call me super-old-school-opinionated about this topic, but I don’t think there’s any advantage to promoting Christmas this early. It’s still almost 70 degrees in the Midwest! Plus, we just had Halloween and most of us are still reeling from the Great Recession. Give us a break before you start selling again. And if you think you need markdowns to get ready for the biggest inventory of the year, then take markdowns, but don’t call it a Christmas sale/promotion, please! You’re really not fooling anyone and only making yourself look bad.

I love the now-classic idea of kicking off the Holidays on Black Friday. I don’t know about you, but after I’ve had that turkey, I’m ready to put the lights up and see some snow…and a host of other things to boot, like good wine and shopping (in that order).

Dawn Clarke
Guest
Dawn Clarke
10 years 6 months ago
There has definitely been a noticeable shift in retailers breaking from tradition and rolling out their promotions earlier. SeeWhy carried out an online study a few weeks back which showed that two thirds of online retailers are rolling out holiday promotions this week or have already done so. In rolling out offers early, online retailers are hoping to minimize the impact of shopping cart abandonment which has a history of significantly increasing around this time of year. In 2009, there was a strong trend of customers stalling purchases in anticipation of holiday offers. From Labor Day through November 15, the number of online sales fell by almost 56 percent compared with the volume for the previous month, and the shopping cart abandonment rate shot up, peaking at 83 percent. Once holiday promotional offers were rolled out, the transaction volumes rose sharply, and the abandonment rate fell dramatically. This year so far, we’ve seen shopping cart abandonment since Labor Day averaging 79%, which is higher than the same period last year (71%), though it appears to… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

The early bird gets the worm. The consumer continues to support early holiday shopping. So long as they do, retailers will continue to promote it. This is a simple cause and effect situation that a few gripes cannot change. Instead, the cash register does not lie, and early holiday sales increase the ring at the register!

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 6 months ago

I don’t have a problem with early Christmas promotions. If retailers weren’t promoting Christmas, they’d be promoting something else, and Christmas-themed promotions are more compelling, and they serve to expand the selling season. If retailers have to be promotional (and certainly all of the major chains are) then I think that Christmas-themed promotions, from Columbus Day on, make good marketing sense and good business sense.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

I don’t necessarily understand the objection consumers have to retailer Christmas sales for early in November other than two possible factors:

1 – The psychology that “oh my goodness I need to start thinking about my shopping.”

2 – Fear that all the good stuff will run out of stock before I’m ready.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
10 years 6 months ago

I agree with those who have said that holidays are best left between Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah. Make your offerings and prices meaningful during those times, and consumers will be happy.

Fabien Tiburce
Guest
Fabien Tiburce
10 years 6 months ago

Polling customers doesn’t always tell the whole story. Software usability experts like Jakob Nielsen remind us we should watch what people do, not what they say. People might say they don’t like early promos but if early promos trigger sales, who’s to argue with that?

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