Calendar Shock! Why Retail Promotions Start So Early

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october-calendarCalendar Shock! What is it? It’s that feeling of sudden disorientation when you walk into a retail store and see Christmas decorations when it’s 95 degrees outside. Or back-to-school promotions in June. When your friends are talking about what stores they are going to hit on Black Friday while you haven’t even made plans for Halloween. When Walmart issues its “Hot Toy List” before Labor Day.

Without a doubt, retailers and other marketers are pushing the promotional calendar more than ever in advance of each new holiday. Obviously, the reason for this is to increase revenue. According to Bob Phipps, The Retail Doctor, “Customers have a mental budget of what they will spend for the holidays; for decorations, for gifts for the family, for the teachers/coaches, for the office – the works. The sooner those customers have spent money earmarked for holiday purchases, the less they will spend when it comes the traditional time to think about buying holiday gifts.” In other words, the earlier retailers start holiday promotions, the better their chances of snagging those budget dollars. And if it is true for Christmas, why should any other promotion be different?

Even online retailers and direct and e-marketers are encouraged to start their promotions well in advance of the specific holiday. (And having received my first Christmas gift catalog several weeks ago, I can attest this is true!)

Many customers bemoan the fact that holiday promotions are being started so far in advance of the actual holiday. “By the time the holiday is here, I am already sick of it!” And of course, many retailers -while not exactly backing off early holiday promotions, have cut back a little on the commercialism by not opening on Thanksgiving.

But is consumer protest working? In a word, no.

This may be a case of “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” According to Time magazine: “Not only are there no angry picketers, but there seem to be plenty of shoppers encouraging retailers in their efforts to push the Christmas shopping season back into summer, or at least early autumn. … According to last year’s National Retail Federation survey, 41% of Americans said they start their holiday shopping before Halloween, and about 20% begin by the end of September.” And that trend has been stable for many years.

Consider these stats from collected in September 2015:

  • By September 2015, 14% of U.S. consumers (or about 32 million adults) had begun holiday shopping. And 2% (or about 4.6 million) were already done.
  • Holiday shopping will end in November for 23% of shoppers. However, more than half of holiday shoppers (55%) won’t finish until sometime in December. And about 20% won’t be done until Christmas Eve.
  • But we’re starting earlier: 15% of shoppers said they’d start earlier, compared with 4% saying they would start later.
  • Online shoppers start earlier: 18 percent of online shoppers have started holiday shopping; only 14% in-store shoppers have started.
  • Older consumers shop earlier: 7% of consumers over the age of 65 have finished holiday shopping, significantly more than any other age group.

So, if the sight of Santa in October, school supplies in June, and pumpkins in July makes you cringe, you’re just going to have to suck it up or stop shopping altogether. Because this trend is working for retailers and shows no signs of slowing down. As long as consumers respond positively to early holiday promotions, retailers will try to make their seasonal selling last as long as possible.

Calendar shock? Get used to it!

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Lenni Moore

Lenni Moore is the Director of Operations at Infosurv. She’s always been passionate about fostering strong professional relationships. It’s precisely these relationships that allow her to exceed her clients’ expectations because she knows exactly what they want and then leverages her experience to get it for them.
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