Deck the Malls

I saw the first signs on November 1st.  I was at the grocery store, hunting for discounted Halloween candy when I saw the glitter.  And then sparkles.  And a tube of shiny coloured paper.  Disbelief took hold.  There was no way….was it possible…..were the Christmas products on the shelves already?!  I still had a jack o’lantern on my front porch.  I hadn’t even bought my Remembrance Day poppy yet. How was I supposed to get into the holiday spirit?

There used to be a very clear start to the holiday shopping rush.  The day after American Thanksgiving meant the unofficial countdown to Christmas was on.  When the stores opened on Black Friday there would be fancy decorations everywhere the eye could see, and the holiday muzak would start playing through the mall on a 24/7 loop.  Parking lots and stores would get crowded and chaotic, and the line-up to visit Santa would wind around fake reindeer and big red SALE signs.  But the last few years have seen a definite shift in the retail market in regards to when the season starts.  More and more, store owners are trying to speed up the clock and get their customers looking to the end of the year.  Forget Black Friday – several big-name American retailers started their seasonal sales in July!

There is sound logic behind the push towards a longer shopping season.  Consumers have less money to spend, and retailers are fighting each other for every last penny.  Impulse shopping is at an all-time low, and more consumers are focused on budgeting and necessity spending than ever before.  Retailers need to work hard to make shoppers open their wallets.  Malls and big-box retailers are being hit especially hard in recent years, with increases in local and online shopping affecting the amount of people who walk through the mall to work through their Christmas list.  Spreading the Christmas shopping season over several months will allow shoppers to spread their spending out, thus spending more cash in the process.  Stores are then able to spread their costs out over a greater period of time, which allows for more steady revenue over an extended period. It’s just good business sense.

As a retailer, when do you start planning for the Christmas shopping season? Is it possible to push holiday sales too early, or do you need every day possible to get the most bang for your marketing buck?


Posted on November 29, 2011, in State of the Industry and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I do agree that year after year we are seeing the Christmas holiday season pushed up. It seems to be flattening out where rather than a six week push we are seeing a two month push. As retailers, however, we start planning the holiday season at the end of the first quarter. I am in meetings regarding sales ads, media campaigns and buying focuses in early March. When the rest of the country is focusing on Easter tidings, retailers are looking at which items we will be putting in the black friday ad. We start planning employee activities such as staffing and training needs for the holiday season before the second quarter has ended.

    • Thanks for commenting! 🙂 Just out of curiosity, are you seeing any sort of a difference in your sales by adding the extra push to the holiday season? Or is it more business-as-usual but just spread out over a longer period of time?

  2. This year is interesting for me as I am seeing things as a consultant rather than a decision maker. What I am hearing is that the sales are flattening. Most owners are expecting a very modest growth in their comp sales overall for the season. The NRF is projecting 2.8% growth and I tend to think they are right on, they do such a good job each year. I think the retailers that opened early benefited from grabbing market share, but I am not super confident that we are seeing a trend towards growth. I think that when the season ends it will be cautious consumer confidence once again.

    • Yesterday NRF released their numbers for this year’s Black Friday shopping and there was a substantial increase in the amount of shoppers versus last year. I’d be interested to look at the numbers in January and see if that increase really does spread across the extended holiday shopping season, or if it’s isolated to just the American Thanksgiving weekend. If retailers are finding that they’re still seeing the majority of their sales isolated to a specific four-day period, will they continue with the earlier Christmas push or will we see a return to a more “normal” shopping season?

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