Today, I’m launching a twice-weekly “Season of Shopping,” blog feature, a part of the Yakima Herald-Republic’s holiday shopping coverage.
In these blogs, which will run Mondays and Thursdays from now until Christmas, I will focus on different aspects of the holiday shopping season.
I couldn’t think of a better way to launch this feature than to talk about “Christmas Creep,” or the concept of retailers promoting the holidays much earlier than December. I suppose this blog is an example of such creep, given that Halloween was only a few days ago.
Other examples include seeing artificial Christmas trees at Costco in September or K-Mart airing a holiday commercial in September, about 105 days before Christmas.
And of course the biggest example of this is the growing trend of retailers to open on Thanksgiving night.
“Christmas Creep” has been occurring for years, but many experts, as Matt Brownell wrote in September for Daily Finance, believe that the creep arrived even earlier this year due to a number of circumstances, including a shorter holiday shopping window for retailers and a much earlier Hanukkah.
Philosophically, people don’t like the “Christmas Creep.” Many consumers lament the fact that beloved fall holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving are getting short shrift. According to recent survey from SOASTA, a Mountain View, Calif. firm that tests web and mobile apps for businesses:
• 81 percent think that retailers should not play Christmas music before Thanksgiving,
• 77 percent of retailers think that stores shouldn’t put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.
Mary Beth Quirk over at The Consumerist posted today that shoppers are bothered by “Christmas Creep” because having more blurred lines between Thanksgiving and Christmas makes the holiday less special and reduces the opportunity to fully enjoy the unique traditions of each. Shoppers also don’t like the idea of retailers dictating when and how they will shop for the holidays.
And that sentiment is shared among local shoppers and retailers. In a 2011 Reporters’ Notebook column, M’Liss Bierlink, owner of Sister to Sister in Prosser, expressed skepticism about super-early holiday promotions.
“I think each season is so special,” she said then. “If you water it down by trying to capitalize (on the fact) that people buy more at Christmas, you miss out on all the things that (other seasons) have to offer.”
In that same column, Kay Hartshorn, who ran Cookie Cutter Etc. in Yakima before closing it earlier this year to retire, pointed out that shoppers would comment that their annual open house in early November was still “too early.”
Many Shop Talk readers expressed displeasure at retailers opening earlier on Thanksgiving as well.
“Thanksgiving is disappearing,” said Shannon Ralph McConkey on Shop Talk’s Facebook page.
However, while shoppers seem to dislike the idea of thinking about Christmas and other winter holidays before Thanksgiving, shoppers’ actions often don’t line up with their words.
A combined 41.4 percent started holiday shopping before Halloween, according to research done by Proper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation, a retail trade organization.
Among the reasons that shoppers start early include spreading out one’s budget, taking advantage of retail promotions and avoiding crowds.
So retailers have a dilemma: There is a clear backlash for forcing Christmas earlier than desired but shoppers also show they like shopping for holiday gifts and other related merchandise well before Halloween.
For now, it seems retailers are going along with the wallet over the heart. Wal-Mart is offering “early-bird” holiday specials on its website. Amazon.com is counting down to the busy Thanksgiving weekend by offering early deals as well. Meanwhile, hardware retailer Lowe’s is already revealing its Black Friday deals on popular social media site Pinterest.
So what do you think? Are you bothered by “Christmas Creep”? Or do you find value in taking advantage of early holiday promotions? Let us know in the comments.