If current trends continue, “It’s the Easter Beagle”, an old Charlie Brown Easter special, may soon become a reality. In the 1974 episode, the Peanuts gang heads out to the mall in mid-April and sees Christmas displays out, some with signs that read, “Only 246 days left until XMAS.” But given recent history, this will become a reality sooner rather than later.
The holidays are meant to be a time of thankfulness. It’s a time to be merry — or more appropriately described as, “… the most wonderful time of the year.” However, it appears that retailers are keen on abusing this holiday optimism and merriment by pushing Christmas displays and music early to pad their bottom line. Stores are wrapping up their underlying desire to push their products and increase profits with a bow tie of “merriment and cheer.”
In the past, stores and retail locations put up their Christmas displays and started playing holiday music after Thanksgiving weekend, but that is rarely the case now. Every year, the holidays are creeping up sooner and sooner. Stores all over the country have been a part of a merchandising phenomenon known as “Christmas creep.” The idea is to simply push forward the start of the holiday season closer to the middle or beginning of November rather than the conventional post-Thanksgiving dates. According to the National Retail Federation, as of 2012, holiday shopping accounted for 19.3 percent of total retail industry sales, a 3.3 percent increase over the past 10 years. This sales increase allows stores the leverage to continue pushing Christmas displays out sooner to garner increased profits. Ultimately due to competition, this leads to stores competing with each other to see who could put out their Christmas displays up the earliest.
Some may not have noticed the changes that stores are making, but to put it into context, this year, Kmart aired its first holiday commercial 109 days before Christmas on Sept 9, which was even before the summer season had ended on Sept. 21. Stephen Hoch, a marketing professor at the Wharton Business School for the University of Pennsylvania, equates it to an arms race among stores. Hoch said, “It’s like a mini-arms race. The competition among retailers means nobody wants to be second. That moves the shopping season up a little bit more each and every year.” However, as long as retailers are able to create a profit during the holiday season with the Christmas creep, they will continue to do so; at the end of the day it’s all just business.
American consumers are not pleased with what retailers are doing. According to a recent SOASTA survey, 78 percent of Americans believe that stores should not play Christmas music before Thanksgiving and 75 percent of Americans also believe that stores should wait to put up their Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving. American consumers have taken notice of how stores are taking advantage of the holiday season. Stores are using the holiday cheer to prey on consumers to persuade them into making purchases to better their profit margins.
The main issue with Christmas creep is that it approaches the holidays with a business mindset, but for retail chains that is the entire point. Some could argue that increased profits are a good thing, especially for shareholders and companies. During trying times, stores are attempting to attract shoppers sooner so that customers can buy more products over a greater span of time instead of blowing their entire paycheck at once. The argument is that these profits could be put toward paying back dividends, increasing employee numbers or increasing share value thereby increasing market value. Long-term sustainability and expansion is the priority for any retail chain and using Christmas creep allows them to do that.
But what shoppers fail to realize is that the Christmas creep is abusing the holiday spirit for the benefit of increased profit. The retailers neglect the holiday spirit of giving and instead have created the spirit of greed as they try to drain as much money they can from consumers during low-economic times. Retailers are pressuring consumers to purchase more than their paycheck can ultimately handle by encouraging shoppers to buy sooner with pathetic discounts that are merely a scam. During economic hardships, some people may think that they need to purchase earlier in the year to receive these “deals” that will help to not burn their wallet.
It does not have to be that way, however. If American consumers refuse to make any holiday purchases until after Thanksgiving, it will force retailers to reevaluate their marketing tactics. By pushing purchase dates a few weeks closer to December, retail chains will have to readjust their target window for the holidays. As long as consumers are willing to make this change, it might be able to curb Christmas creep, but if not, we may soon be seeing Christmas in April sooner rather than later.