They are some of the most common complaints heard across America each and every year. “Christmas music? Already?!,” you might hear. Or, “Holiday Sales? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!”
In October, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said it expects holiday sales to rise 4.1% in 2012 to totals approaching $580 billion. Even in times where the state of the economy didn’t threaten to curb consumer spending, retailers have always fought hard to capitalize on the holiday season, and that profitable motivation means that as always, the race to win the shoppers’ dollars must begin as early as possible.
But if consumers are so fed up with hearing ‘Jingle Bells’ when they step foot in the mall or seeing elaborate dioramas depicting snowy scenes in shop windows, why do retailers insist on making sure Christmas comes earlier and earlier each year?
As soon as the calendar flipped to November, Starbucks rolled out its signature red cups, symbolically signaling the official start of the winter season for its coffee-crazed devotees. Target showed that it had no intentions of being fashionably late, airing its first holiday-themed television ads of 2012 in the middle of October. Even earlier, clothier Abercrombie & Fitch lived up to its reputation as an aggressive marketer, and sent out emails with a subject line reading “We’re feeling naughty and sneaking Christmas in early!” The email campaign even addressed its own ridiculous stretching of the limits of reasonable timing. “Let’s keep this on the down-low,” it read.
On the other side of the coin, some marketers are recognizing the disdain many Americans have for companies who shove the holidays in their faces before they are emotionally prepared. Nordstrom has proudly announced that it is waiting until Thanksgiving is over to even begin rolling out its holiday efforts. Rest assured there will be no shortage of décor, specific sales, and general holiday cheer – department stores thrive when December finally does arrive.
Surprisingly, shoppers, despite all their expressed contempt for battling the crowds and having to spend hard-earned cash on gifts for Aunt Susie and their 14 third cousins, thrive in this unique season too.
The NRF’s projections and the actions of the retailers leading the trends this season are proof that this is the most important time of the year for the symbiotic retailer-customer relationship. It is sometimes said that the savviest shoppers get their holiday lists completed before the season even begins. Despite our ridicule of the industry trying to push the boundaries of the season further and further, they clearly understand what is at stake.