You may not be ready for the holidays, but neither are the retail chains.
Christmas trees are already on the sales floors at Costco and Lowe’s, Walmart’s year-end holiday sales begin Oct. 1, and Target ( TGT ) is offering the “earliest access ever” to holiday deals starting Oct. 6. Amazon (AMZN) is organizing a new “Prime Day” sales event on October 11th and 12th.
The holiday craze is nothing new, with retailers starting the Christmas season earlier and earlier every year. But has it gotten out of hand? Should consumers be inundated with holiday music, screens and ads in October – a month associated with the World Series, apple picking and Halloween?
“It’s not good for the consumer to push their December holiday shopping in September and October,” said David Katz, chief marketing officer for Randa Apparel & Accessories, which makes Levi’s, Tommy Hilfiger and other brands.
Retailers have many reasons to kick off the holidays, the most important time of the year. Some stores get half of their annual sales during the holiday season. A weak holiday season can be disastrous.
Shoppers respond to emotions and behaviors in stores, and starting holiday themes early can get consumers to start shopping for gifts.
“The music and the aesthetics and scenery of Christmas affect shopping behavior. It can allow consumers to indulge and spend a little more,” said Charles Lindsey, associate professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo.
And this year, there are new holiday incentives.
Higher prices are factoring into purchasing decisions this year, and these early promotional offers are allowing shoppers to stretch their budgets longer, said Danielle Inman, spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. Case in point: More than half of customers start researching and planning their holiday shopping in October, according to Walmart.
Last year, retailers encouraged customers to shop early to ensure they could get what they were looking for and avoid shipping delays. This year, retailers have misjudged demand and are sitting on casual wear, home goods and other non-essentials. The discounts are being offered early in part to clear shelves and free up cash to bring in new products by 2023.
But there are dangers in stretching holiday deals too long. Stores use promotions to get shoppers to buy immediately or risk losing. An October promotion loses steam if shoppers think they can find the same item on sale in December or January.
“If I’m going to have a four-month holiday season, I’m not as eager to buy now,” Katz said. “You lose the urgency and the immediacy.”