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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fighting for your holiday dollar: Halloween v Christmas

Shopping in a big box hardware store in early October I had the pleasure of viewing Halloween decorations on one side of the aisle and Christmas on the other. I say pleasure, because instead of fighting it, I try to ignore the retail world’s impatience to be the first out of the gate with the various holidays. In early October, one can tweak their Halloween decorations while perusing the new offerings for Christmas. If someone needs replacement bulbs at least the store is meeting the needs of its customers.

Christmas in July 

Every year the rush to be the first retailer for any particular holiday gets earlier and earlier. Can’t say when it started but it seems like in the last five or ten years Christmas comes earlier. Soon Christmas in July won’t be a fun summer celebration but the real thing.

The holidays themselves can’t be moved (Or can they?) Halloween and Christmas have been set dates since ancient times. Doubtful a special interest lobby is going to get Congress to change the dates, but you never can tell.  The commercialism of the holidays is the variable. It comes down to being the first to grab the customer. Black Friday sales used to start at normal business hours on the day after Thanksgiving. Can’t move the Friday after Thanksgiving but retailers can open their doors whenever they want. The sales started to creep earlier, beginning at six AM, four AM, then midnight. Then the “Black Friday” sales started in the evening hours on Thanksgiving then the morning of Thanksgiving. It starts with one major retailer, then someone else will open earlier, then another and another. Until the whole holiday weekend is sales, sales, sales.

Most shoppers feel that Black Friday has encroached too much on Thanksgiving, starting too soon. But those feelings didn’t keep them away from computers. While 2015 brick and mortar Black Friday sales were down approximately 9%, online sales jumped 14%. (Variety of sources)


Is it the impatience of the consumers or the retailers? What is driving the need to get the next holiday merchandise on the shelves before the present holiday has arrived?  Although consumers will grab anything on sale, the drive for early holiday shopping seems to be the need for retailers to capture their market share. As individual retailers look at their bottom line the next big promotion is driven by current sales. Didn’t do well with back to school? Get out the Halloween stock. Don’t usually sell that much candy or ghoulish decorations? Clear more shelves for Christmas. If a retailer knows that they don’t do particularly well during a certain holiday they’ll try to start snagging shoppers for the next.

Rarely do retailers advertise Christmas items on “sale”. They just appear on the shelves next to costumes and Jack O’ Lanterns. Buyers have little product comparison and probably feel they are getting a good deal buying their supplies two months early.  Too much might be too much. In 2015, Target took some media heat when it ran commercials in October that had combined Halloween/Christmas themes.  

It’s like ready the Sunday comics on Saturday, it’s just not done. Stores can stock the shelves as early as they want, I’ll at least wait for the holiday month to start looking.

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