Why Christmas Sales Happen Sooner Every Year

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October 10, 2017

Christmas shopping

You’re still wearing shorts, baseball postseason is heating up, and there may be one more boat ride on the lake left. But inevitably about this time when you need to do a little shopping, your favorite department store is already devoting an entire wing of the store to Christmas items like lights, decorations, and even trees. Why? It’s not even Halloween yet! It’s called holiday creeping, and whether you like it or not, there’s some reasoning behind it.

While some customers are irritated by shopping in a winter wonderland while it’s still warm outside, others like to get their Christmas shopping done well in advance so they can beat the rush. And the tolerance for holiday creeping is increasing. In 2014, 71% of surveyed customers claimed to be annoyed with early Christmas sales, but that number dropped to 63% in 2016.

For over a decade, approximately 40% of consumers have said they start their holiday shopping before Halloween and Black Friday. Parents are twice as likely to do this as those without children. In difficult economic times, most of us budget carefully and use layaway programs, therefore companies are taking their chances to earn more revenue with a longer season.

Empty shelves are one of the worst things a store can have, so they are constantly stocking ahead for whatever the next holiday or shopping event is. When the back-to-school sales end in August, the seasonal section quickly gets restocked with items for Halloween, and they may also display Christmas items to fill space. The merchandise they sell is planned over a year in advance and the influx of new items cannot be processed in just 1-2 months. Richard Feinberg, a professor at Purdue University, says this strategy works because retailers can determine what sells best during the season and stock accordingly.

Radio stations get in on the trend, too, by playing 24/7 Christmas music as early as November 1st. Not long after eating the last of the Halloween candy, you might hear “Silent Night” come on the radio. They start the holidays early for the same reason stores do, because people respond. Radio stations consistently report that when they switch to Christmas music, their Nielsen ratings increase at least 87% and peak on Christmas Eve. Some stations are specific to a certain genre of music, but holiday songs have a much broader appeal. Adult listeners report that it’s a nice change from the slangy pop songs that they usually hear on the radio, and their kids love it too.

So when you’re out buying Halloween costumes this year, you might as well save a trip and pick up a Christmas tree too. Merry Halloween.

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