A Reader Asks: I overheard someone at the mall say in disgust that the Christmas Creep was ruining their holiday spirit. I have heard this term before - what did they mean?
WIB Answers: Most likely the shopper was not referring to a person, but to a retail merchant phenomenon.
Definition Of The Christmas Creep
The practice of extending shopping days for the traditional holiday season is known as the "Christmas Creep." Although this practice has not been shown to stimulate consumer spending in a down economy, retailers across the globe are always attempting to push a sooner start for their holiday sales season - especially when times are hard.
Sam's Club is among some of the better-known stores that are credited with being pioneers in Christmas Creep when the put out holiday merchandise and decorations as early as October 1. other stores who have often followed suite include Target, J.C. Penny's, Wal-Mart, and even the hardware store, Lowe's.
In 2010, for example, Best Buy launched their Christmas sales retail campaign on November 1 - a full ten days earlier than the struggling company did in 2009. On November 2, 2010, major department store, Kohl's, launched their own holiday sales campaign.
Some stores, including Rite Aid, offered two competing aisles for shoppers to browse in October: Halloween costumes and candy, and an aisle over, Christmas decorations.
Does starting holiday sales earlier in the year have any benefits?
For most industries, probably not significantly enough to warrant hiring seasonal workers to start in October - and there are some obvious drawbacks.
Pushing consumers too hard at any time is a turn-off. Few shoppers want to see a store decked out for the traditional winter holidays before Halloween - or even the day after Halloween. October is just too soon to get people focused on holiday spending - at least in a good sense.
Some studies even show that many people become anxious and depressed over most of or all of the holiday season and seeing reminders that Christmas is coming earlier in the year only triggers negatives feelings sooner rather than later.
An alternative to launching full-scale holiday campaigns is to use a more subtle (and less expensive approach) - earmark higher priced items with layaway reminders and start offering department credit cards with incentives such as "sign up for our credit card now and get $25 in spending when you come back and do your holiday shopping with us."
The key to a successful Christmas Creep is not simply about having 10-foot artificial Christmas trees in your October store window or dressing your cashiers up like Santa's elves on November 1st. Early holiday shoppers may respond better to helpful tips and gentle reminders. Try to understand your consumers needs and offer services or tools to help them to plan with gift registries, coupons, special shopping days, and indirect reminders that, like it or not, the holidays are fast approaching.