Shoppers Hate Being Rushed into the Holidays

Discussion
Oct 14, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


We know that the holiday rush can fray nerves. But that’s not the only thing that makes consumers cranky. According to a new study, shoppers resent the feeling they are being pushed into the winter holidays by product displays going up months in advance.


The research, conducted by Yankelovich Partners, found 36 percent of consumers say they don’t enjoy shopping as much because of the pressure to buy.


“We refer to it as season treason,” J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich Partners told The New York Times. “Getting too aggressive about trying to engage people in the holiday season before they take in the pumpkins may dilute some of the anticipation and some of the excitement.”


“People want to spend,” said Mr. Smith, “but there is still enough uncertainty around that they’re being a little watchful.”


“That will require retailers to think about engaging consumers in a more substantial way,” he added, “not so they get turned off by all the marketing that goes on but so they will feel connected to the season.”


Moderator’s Comment: Does the consumer aversion to displays going up too early for the holidays have an impact in terms of how shoppers perceive a retailer
or how much they purchase from a store? How can retailers engage consumers in a more substantial way for the holidays as recommended by J. Walker Smith?

George Anderson – Moderator

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12 Comments on "Shoppers Hate Being Rushed into the Holidays"


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Michael L. Howatt
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Michael L. Howatt
15 years 4 months ago

I really don’t think that the early displays will effect how consumers feel about the Retailer, as everyone seems to be doing it. They have become status quo. Early on, consumers will simply ignore the displays and just purchase those everyday household items they came into the store to buy.

What affect it will have on their emotional state long-term depends on the type of person they are, it’s more of a sociological issue than a retail one.

However, if the Retailer does want to give a positive impression to their consumers, put items on display early that they know are big seller. Discount the price and make them feel like they received an early bargain. Not a tough concept, but rarely done.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Consumers complain about the early holiday displays; many consumers ignore them until they are ready to engage. These consumers do not want to be “connected to the season” yet. Pushing the issue won’t make them any more ready to be connected and may, in fact, push them the other direction. Creating systems or processes to make it easy for them to be connected when THEY are ready is preferable. Forcing consumers to be connected when the retailers are ready is likely to backfire.

Karen Ribler
Guest
Karen Ribler
15 years 4 months ago

I believe there is a correlation between time-appropriate holiday displays and shopper spending. Holiday displays in October do not add excitement and therefore diminish impulse spending. Worse, they promote boredom.

Our lives are too stressful as it is. Pushing the holidays adds to this stress and also adds to the procrastination factor, so that when we are finally ready to buy…it’s not new…it’s not fun…it’s not novel. It gets too close to vanilla; just checking one more thing off our to do lists. And perhaps creates an “I’ll wait until it goes on sale” attitude.

Where’s our ability to be creative?

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 4 months ago

Like Warren, I remember my mother complaining about this as well; the difference being that she complained when decorations went up before Thanksgiving. I complain when they go up before Halloween.

My primary concern is over whether retailers lose sales to current holidays when they start promoting Christmas too soon. It diminishes Halloween and Thanksgiving in my mind, which are both more universally celebrated holidays.

For the record, my Stop & Shop started Christmas merchandising three weeks ago. IT IS TOO DARN EARLY.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 4 months ago

The research number of 36% seems reasonable…at least in my book. I don’t see shoppers getting unnerved by the retailer who puts up displays early; basically the artificial trees, ornaments, decorations, etc.

But, I would think shoppers will start paying attention if there is a hot toy, or iPod that will go on sale for a pre-Christmas sale… especially with gas and heating prices forecasted to advance!

It’s rather comical to see Holiday displays in September and October at Macy’s and Target. Interestingly, no catalogs yet.

Next, year, it will be August. Hmmmmmm

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 4 months ago
The flip side: many stores end the season too early! Ever try to buy a bathing suit in a department store in August? Ever try to buy a department store overcoat in February? The best will be missing and what’s left (if anything) will be an awful selection. But some people might want a nice coat in February, since in much of this country, it’s one of the coldest months! And many people wear out their bathing suits by August 15th, and some people go swimming all year round, anyway. Stores do not have rubber walls, so the total selling space is fixed. No store wants to get stuck with items to pack away for next year. Which is smarter: having a decent selection of winter clothing on February 15th or having the Spring set-up completed February 15th since all the winter items were marked down 80% on January 20th? There are long-term weather forecasting services that warn retailers not to markdown their winter clothing too early, if the beginning of the season is mild.… Read more »
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
15 years 4 months ago

I agree that extremely early merchandising diminishes other holidays, and retailers are probably missing some low hanging fruit by not having more fun with Halloween and promoting Thanksgiving as well. But, the big ticket stuff is all Christmas, so I’m sure, in terms of pure numbers, it all makes sense. This is all only a minor irritant for shoppers and I’m sure causes only a fraction of 1% of shoppers to actually decide not to shop at a store. For the record, my Costco had Christmas displays and Christmas MUSIC up in September!

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

Oh so many moons ago, I can recall my mother complaining about this while she dragged me through Woolworth’s and all the other retailers where I grew up. I don’t think it’s anything new, and I don’t think it is identified with any particular store. Nobody wants to be late and lose a sale. I suspect retailers perceive that as a bigger financial risk than upsetting shoppers by being too early. And, I suspect they may be right.

scott cain
Guest
scott cain
15 years 4 months ago

My question, is when will consumers just not care? When a song is played too often on the radio, many of us get tired of it, and eventually go looking for another station. As any brand has a life cycle, would it not be clever to consider a holiday in the same manner? A smart retailer could expect their consumer’s opinion to ebb and flow over holiday mood, and enthusiasm. With a thoughtful strategy, timing of a holiday one year could be a really big splash, and nothing but dollar store fodder the next.

Or could it be that many retailers are just missing the point concerning consumer displeasure over whether or not their holiday displays are up to early? It may be that consumers are really just asking for is something to really get excited about. Not when the holiday product hits the shelf but when does the store transform itself into an exciting holiday mood?

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 4 months ago

This is good news for my neighbors who still haven’t taken down their holiday lights from last year…

As for me, the early proliferation of holiday displays makes me want to stay away from the stores. It makes retailers seem desperate. No wonder Yankelovich’s research detected a strain of resentment among some consumers.

Don Van Zandt
Guest
Don Van Zandt
15 years 4 months ago

People don’t want to shop Christmas before Thanksgiving, much less before Halloween, much less before Labor Day….

I understand the issue with space, but I am put off when the displays go up 3 months before the Holiday and clearance begins 2 weeks before the Holiday. The store looks dated before I am ready to buy.

As the demographics continue to change, fewer kids are born and families “age,” I think this will continue to “backfire” on retailers. There is no “sense of urgency” to go and buy because the season has been worn out by being up so long.

Two months from now, we will all be decrying the slow start to the season and the massive markdowns retailers are going to have to make to move items. I begin to wonder when they will all realize that they create a self-fulfilling prophecy by their collective business practices.

Does this make me the first official “Grinch” of the year?

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 4 months ago

Funny how customers aren’t “watchful,” “connected to the season,” or do not “resent the feeling” during post-holiday sales.

This is hilarious. Shoppers being ““pushed?” So what’s new? If they weren’t buying, retailers wouldn’t be selling. A close friend – the #1 silk floral designer for Michael’s nationally – has been designing Christmas arrangements since October 1 and is working overtime to keep up with the demand. The stuff is walking out the door as fast as she and her team can produce it.

Customers are predatory. They circle above and swoop down on the deals & discounts. Make no mistake, customers are always in charge of the shopping process – not the retailers.

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