To the relief of many south of the border, Target announced on Tuesday it will take it easy with the Christmas promotions until Americans have had a chance to celebrate Thanksgiving.
The company said it heard loud and clear that customers are tired of the so-called “Christmas creep,” the familiar tendency of the Christmas retail season to encroach on November and recently, it seems, even October.
Target didn’t go so far as to say it won’t wheel out its Christmas paraphernalia until Nov. 24. Christmas signs and merchandise will start popping up in stores beginning in early November, as they have in years past. But the retailer has pledged not to stick things like giant Santas and Christmas trees by the front entrances at least until Turkey dinner is over.
In an era when Christmas is starting to creep up on Halloween, many are applauding that — if small — step back.
But will others follow in Target’s footsteps, even here in Canada?
Experts think the retailer may be onto something.
The decision to trim back the holiday season likely wasn’t a spontaneous gesture from the bottom of Target’s heart. It was a rational calculation, said Robert Levy, president of Toronto-based BrandSpark International.
“I doubt that consumers were really upset.”
Instead, “there probably wasn’t much interest” in an extra early start to Christmas shopping, said Levy.
Other retailers might also find that stretching the holiday season further and further just isn’t worth it.
For almost three decades the industry has been pulling the trigger on various retail season earlier and earlier — from Back to School to Valentine’s Day.
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In part, this is about retailers trying to earn every single dollar they can, said Bruce Winder, co-founder and partner at Retail Advisors Network.
If stashing shelves with Halloween candy in August pushes sales up, then that’s what stores will do.
In part, some retailers feel like they should aim to “win the season.” By rolling out your inflatable Santa before the competition, goes the thinking, you signal to consumers that you’re the place to go for their holiday needs. Even if this doesn’t immediately translate into sales, it puts you on people’s mental Christmas shopping map, said Winder.
The reality, though, is that the case for jumping the gun is a little less compelling when it comes to Christmas.
LISTEN: Newstalk 770’s Rob Breakenridge connects with Bruce Winder, co-founder and partner at Retail Advisors Network:
Displaying spooky costumes in early September might attract the Halloween enthusiasts. And stocking up on teddy bears with hearts in January might help your Valentine Day’s sales.
But what is there to buy around Christmas that is specific to that festivity? Besides Christmas lights and decor, not much, noted Winder. Stuff that might constitute a Christmas gift, after all, is available all year round.
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Besides, consumers are getting more and more sophisticated, said Levy. What they really want, generally, is deals, not background Christmas jingles.
So unless stores have something concrete to offer, like deep discounts or hot new items that seem to be on everyone’s wish list, being first to inaugurate the holiday season won’t help much.
As big data gives retailers a better idea of which strategies actually work and which don’t, Christmas in November might turn out to be the latter.