Christmas Comes Earlier Every Year (or Does It?)

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If you visit your local Target's seasonal department, you may notice an interesting dynamic. Though the majority of these aisles are clogged with glittery Halloween costumes and sweets galore, Christmas lights and holiday lawn decorations have started to infiltrate the back wall, while gift-wrap materials are now intertwined with the leftover garden supplies of the spring and summer. Here, the entire year melds into one, allowing no single season its fair share of the spotlight.
Customer Engagement

If you visit your local Target's seasonal department, you may notice an interesting dynamic. Though the majority of these aisles are clogged with glittery Halloween costumes and sweets galore, Christmas lights and holiday lawn decorations have started to infiltrate the back wall, while gift-wrap materials are now intertwined with the leftover garden supplies of the spring and summer. Here, the entire year melds into one, allowing no single season its fair share of the spotlight.Yet, while many have taken to social media within the last few weeks to complain about the first signs of ornamental wreaths and inflatable snowmen, it seems grumbling has become its own holiday tradition. As Joe Pinsker recently highlighted in The Atlantic, with outrage comes acceptance, as yearly whining frees consumers to finally acknowledge and embrace the start of the holiday season. Pinsker also notes that, while most feel advertisements and sale promotions start earlier each year, such sentiment dates back decades, for retailers engage in the same behavior practically every season. Brands simply introduce new items and layaway months in advance to alleviate the last-minute rush and capitalize on wallet share ahead of the competition--an expectedly logical strategy in an increasingly cutthroat economy.

One recent survey by Bain & Company indicates that, in fact, most people don't really mind early holiday ads and promotions. While 32.7 percent love or like these holiday displays and 34.7 percent are neutral or a little annoyed, only 32.7 percent outright hate said early marketing efforts. However, with Macy's recent Black Friday hour announcement--I mean, Thursday--the debate has quickly shifted from one focused on material goods, to an argument about moral and ethical consciousness.

In this instance, consumers are perturbed by the fact that this major department store has chosen to impede one day of celebration to profit off another. Consumers have become desensitized to Hallmark's mid-summer ornament launch, and they're willing to accept Pottery Barn's decision to put Halloween wares on sale at the beginning of October, but many are still up in arms when it comes to the premature commercialization of a holiday that represents love and appreciation.

Last year, more than one week before Christmas, I discovered that our local Stop & Shop supermarket already set up its Cadbury Crème Egg Easter display alongside its rack of Santa hats. Though only mildly shocking, this blatant disregard for boundaries truly drives consumer discontent. Much like Macy's early Black Friday hours--and countless others, which are bound to follow suit--it's examples such as this that highlight retailers' myopic tendency to focus on sales, not sentiment. While few retailers, such as Nordstrom, pride themselves on remaining holiday neutral until after Thanksgiving, most cannot rush the season fast enough, cycling through one holiday as quickly as possible to make room for the next money maker. It's almost as if the term "holiday rush" means something much different to those stocking the shelves. Instead, perhaps we all need to simply slow down, enjoy the moment, and give each holiday the attention it deserves. After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year!

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION