Have you started Christmas shopping yet? If not, then you’re already late… by a few months. Many big box retailers begin celebrating the holidays early by placing festive inventory on the shelves as soon as August. Why is this if the season of giving isn’t for another few months?
Companies like Hobby Lobby, Hallmark, and even USPS have spent endless hours for the past decades perfecting the process of holiday sales. If you’re looking for a line in the sand telling you when you can expect to see Frosty the Snowman in your favorite stores, many retailers use Labor Day as the unofficial start. So why is this? Do they really love reindeer and eggnog this much or is there something else to it?
About 40% of consumers say they begin their Christmas shopping before Halloween (http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-holiday-shopping-august-htmlstory.html). There are a number of reasons why shopping increases in the Fall. One of the most influential is the sheer stress of the holiday season. People are constantly planning what they will have to buy their loved ones when the time comes. These aren’t just your significant others or your children, it’s your mother, father, sister, brother, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, friend, neighbor… The list goes on and on. Retailers see this as a great asset for spreading their holiday sales across as many months as possible.
One reason for retailers to start their holiday sales early could be purely image-related. A retailer selling $100k in the Fall prior to the “real” holiday season may look more prominent to investors. In reality, the “real” holiday season for most retailers stretches across five months.
Another motive for retailers to “spread the wealth” of the holiday season into the earlier months is for inventory planning. If they see that the early holiday months aren’t selling as much as last year, they won’t make the big gamble in December and stock up on merchandise that may cause them millions in old inventory fees.
The last and most modern reason for retailers to stock up early and really push the Holiday season is the Amazon invasion. For the last decade, Amazon has grown into a corporate giant capable of doing just about anything. They act as a bookstore, an e-commerce site, a video streaming service, a grocery store, a smart home application, and even as a corporate bank. Brick and mortar stores have no chance during the off-season to compete with Amazon and other e-commerce sites. Using the flood of foot traffic during the holidays to combat e-commerce giants like Amazon, is the only chance for brick and mortar stores to survive.
These reasons are the source of the “holiday creep” that emerges before the winter coats do. Luckily, the holiday sales craze has increased competition throughout the years, driving down prices and increasing holiday spend. That’s good for the consumer but tough on the seller.
Just like with any retail endeavor, the sales are complemented with a plethora of advertising to boost volume. So next time you see ads for Christmas sales in August, you’ll understand why, and how this may benefit you as a consumer.