When Does The Christmas Holiday Sales Season Officially Begin?

Does The Christmas Holiday Retail Sales Season Have an Official Start Date?

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A Reader Asks: When is the official start date of the holiday / Christmas retail season?

WIB Answers: There is no official start date for retailers to begin launching their Christmas holiday season sales. In fact, each year, different retailers set new standards to follow so the Christmas / holiday retail sales season is dynamic and continues to evolve.

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, Kohls, launched their own holiday sales campaign. Even home improvement and hardware store giant, Lowe's, was all decked out for Christmas just days after the "Great Pumpkin" left.

Some stores, including Rite Aid, offered two aisles for shoppers to browse in October: Halloween costumes and candy, and a few aisles over, shoppers could purchase Christmas decorations and holiday items.

Does starting sales so early in the year have any benefits?

That's hard to say on a broad, general business scale because each business and market is different. But there are some obvious drawbacks that do span multiple industries:

  • Pushing consumers too hard is almost always a great way to turn-off potential buyers.
  • Few shoppers want to see a store decked out for the holidays before Halloween - and even the day after Halloween is just too soon and is more likely to lead to eye rolling and moaning than pre-holiday sales..
  • The cost of hiring seasonal help can increase if you need to hire earlier in the season.
  • Space that could be used to sell other items is taken up with Christmas items.  If the Christmas items are not selling, you are wasting valuable retail space.

So, when should you start holiday sales campaign?

That depends on two things and two things only:

  • The nature of your business; and
  • The market you serve.

The Nature of Your Business

There are many types of products and services that people need to plan for or purchase long in advance of the holidays. Examples include travel services, wedding arrangements, and big ticket items like new cars.

Offering a "Christmas in July" sale for cars, trucks, and similar items makes sense. Offering "Christmas in July" sales for winter season clothing and ice skates may not.

The Market You Serve

Some folks only shop towards the end of the year when the get their annual Christmas bonus. If your market does not have money to spend now, consider offering a layaway plan.

If you live in a cold climate where people associate the snap in the air with the ushering in of the holidays, you may find it easier to market winter items earlier in the year than you would in Florida or Southern California where people are less likely to be thinking scarves, mittens, and hats!

What Consumers Think About Christmas Coming Earlier and Earlier Each Year

Due in part to pressure via social networks and blogs by consumers and low-wage workers who are often required to work on the day after Thanksgiving (also known was "Black Friday") 2014 and 2015 saw more and more larger retail based corporations staying closed on Thanksgiving.  That does not mean these stores did not have pre-holiday sales or their own stores decked out, but rather than force workers to work on Thanksgiving day itself in order to gain a few possible sales, more stores are starting to see the upside of appearing to be family friendly.

CNBC reported that 71 percent of Americans polled said they were either "annoyed" or "very annoyed" with retailers who put out Christmas items before Halloween. However, some people actually do enjoy Christmas creep. 

"Only 59 percent of respondents in this age group, who fall between ages 18 and 29, said they feel annoyed when holiday items appear early. In fact, 12 percent said they either "like" or "love" it. That compares with less than 8 percent of the second-most accepting group, 30- to 44-year-olds, who said they "like" or "love" the shift. The least accepting of the Christmas creep was the 45 to 60 age group."  (CNBC.com)

The Best Holiday Sales Tip Ever

Perhaps the best holiday sales tip for all business owners is to not become a lemming. It is always wise to study what the competition is doing but just because someone else started their holiday sales campaigns in October does not mean you should automatically do it too.  And don't forgot, there are some people who do not shop at all until after the holidays in order to take advantage of those after-Christmas sales, too!

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