Is it Christmas already?

26 September 2014

BOSTON, MA: As the first advertisements and in-store displays with a Christmas theme start to appear, US consumers appear equally divided between detesting their early arrival and welcoming them.

The Bain & Co consultancy polled 621 American adults last week and found that two thirds had already seen holiday displays – Santas in CostCo for example – and noted that Kmart had launched the season's first holiday ad.

Respondents split into three camps, with around one third (32.7%) saying they hated early holiday marketing, one third loving it (32.7%) and one third (34.7%) largely indifferent.

Blogging on the Harvard Business Review site, Bain executives Darrell Rigby and Suzanne Tager reported that positive responders felt that early holiday marketing put them in a good mood, helped them to avoid procrastination and gave them helpful ideas.

Those most likely to appreciate early promotions included shoppers under 45, those with children in their households, and those on lower incomes (under $20,000), who the authors suggested, would welcome the chance to spread holiday spending over longer periods.

Retailers also have an obvious interest in extending the holiday shopping period, they observed. Apart from the opportunity to increase sales volumes, a longer season lowers the chances of running out of stock, reduces staff costs – in terms of overtime and recruiting and training temporary personnel – and lessens the risk that bad weather might discourage last-minute shoppers or delay deliveries.

Retailers will this year be placing even greater emphasis on the holidays, following on a slow back-to-school shopping season. Bloomberg highlighted two reports, one showing that spending for this period had risen 3.1%, the smallest increase in more than five years, the other charting falls in store traffic – down 4.2% in July and down another 4.7% in August.

"Competition is going to remain fierce, and there's going to be a significant amount of promotions taking place," said Ken Perkins, president of industry tracker Retail Metrics.

Data sourced from Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg; additional content by Warc staff