Christmas creep: how early is too early?

Black Friday shoppers rush into Best Buy 2010

It seems Christmas creeps into our lives earlier and earlier every year. The decorations have been up at some stores for weeks. This year, Target is already launching holiday ads and we haven’t even hit Halloween. So, what can we expect this shopping season? I predict aggressive marketing and sales.

Stores are fighting for every last dollar. The consumer friendly marketing started early with layaway plans. More stores are offering them.

Many retailers are also offering a version of price matching with Best Buy even offering to match some online deals. This is a big holiday for Best Buy. This year, it’s already shut down stores and it’s dealing with the issue of showrooming. That’s where Best Buy puts electronics on display, and consumers play around with the items in the store. Then, buy the item online at a cheaper retailer. That’s why they are matching some online prices, although there are exceptions to their offer. Read the fine print.

These price matching policies are popping up because Walmart began an aggressive campaign last year before the holiday rush. I put their policy and other stores policies to the test for NewsChannel 5 last year.

I found very few clerks know the policy at Walmart. We also tested a few other stores, and sometimes a price match added ten extra minutes to our shopping trip. It required circulars from other stores and a store manager. At Walmart, it’s supposed to be easier. Most times, the cashier was happy to change the price whether she or he knew the policy or not.

Many of Walmart’s competitors are now getting into the action and making sure you know about their willingness to match prices. The bottom line – stores want you to shop their store rather than shopping around.

Technology is driving this phenomenon to some extent because pricing is more readily available than ever before with a cell phone. Some apps let you scan the UPC on an item, and within seconds you can see the prices online and at other retailers for the same product.

TV ads already airing
This year, Target is getting its message out earlier than years past with TV ads already filling the airwaves. These come on the heels of a big political season when air time is hard to find in some markets especially swing state Ohio.

Ad Age said typically holiday TV ads don’t appear until the beginning of November. The first ad is from a retailer who held off for its major TV campaign until the weekend after Thanksgiving two years ago. Ad Age said back then, Target’s Chief Marketing Officer Michael Francis said the retailer held off on ads based on guest surveys, and point-of-sale data.

Now, there is new leadership at Target and obviously a new philosophy.

In this age of social media, people are sounding off. On Facebook, there are comments like, “A Christmas commercial? ALREADY?? OH come ON. it’s not even Hallowe’en yet! please. PLEASE stop this.”

Target’s response to some of the comments, “We’re sorry to hear about your disappointment. We’ve shared your feedback with our Broadcast Media executives for review.”

 Ads leaked
The circulars or ads for Black Friday usually leak before the TV ads. So, when can we expect those?

A few ads have already leaked, but  nothing major. We should see higher interest stores in the next few weeks.  According to GottaDeal’s calendar of leaks last year, ACE Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyond circulars were out by now last year. On October 24th, BJ’s ad was leaked and Radio Shack on October 26th.

”Tis the season to celebrate ghosts and goblins and the scary weeks that lead up to the December holidays.

How early is too early for you? Click comment below.

4 thoughts on “Christmas creep: how early is too early?

  1. Showrooming is the term, as opposed to showcasing.

    As far as the headline goes… “too early” used to be any time before Thanksgiving, and I think we should get back to that standard. Life isn’t just about buying stuff.


    • Alan – Thanks for the comment. You’re right on the term. My mistype. I agree. It’s too early, but I doubt most retailers will wait until after Thanksgiving, but a little closer to that date would be nice.


  2. I have an interesting idea for a sensible “compromise” when it comes to Christmas creep. Go ahead and put out a FEW decorations in ONE AISLE of the store some time in early to mid-October, but everywhere else in the store should maintain a “strictly autumnal aesthetic” through at least Nov. 1. Then, during the first three weeks of November, GRADUALLY begin to put out more and more Yuletide and winter-themed stuff while gradually phasing out the fall thematics.

    Also I think we should carefully differentiate between “general winter” stuff like snow and ice, and Christmas-specific decorations like holly and ribbons and evergreen boughs. The important thing is that the WINTER stuff doesn’t hit until at least partway through November, out of respect for Mother Nature’s seasonal calendar. A few ribbons or red-green decorations are fine earlier on, just to tease the customers a bit.


    • Thanks for your comments. Great ideas. I wish the stores would listen, but as many retail stores are struggling to survive I think we’ll continue to see Christmas Creep for years to come.


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