News & Trends

It turns out consumers love Christmas creep

Posted by: Jen Maisch Jen Maisch
on October 5, 2016

The season has changed from summer to…Laborfalloween? What in the world is that?

Of course, we’re talking about holiday creep, or the trend of retailers stocking their shelves with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas merchandise well before the actual holidays. The concept of Christmas in July goes back to the 19th century, but it remains as prevalent as ever in the 21st century. Today, holiday creep is pushing holiday shopping earlier and earlier on the calendar. Critics decry holiday creep and some consumers feel alienated when Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving cornucopias, and Christmas trees arrive in stores before Labor Day. Charlie Brown and SNL joked about it, too.

But holiday creep persists. Why? Once Labor Day passes, many shoppers begin their holiday shopping and forget all about holiday creep.

Who’s buying and when

Who shops during peak holiday creep? Plenty of us, it turns out. Though the belief is holiday shopping starts on Black Friday, the reality is many consumers – 40 percent of those surveyed – begin shopping for Christmas gifts before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. It’s a trend that’s lasted a decade. A CreditCards.com survey found that 14 percent of consumers begin in September.

Plus, a 2014 Nielsen poll revealed that 27 percent of women and 12 percent of men began holiday shopping for their loved ones in September. In general, parents are more likely to shop early and often, too.

What’s the takeaway? Consumers embrace holiday creep, as evident by the money they spend on gifts and goods before Thanksgiving.

Smart and strategic shoppers

So why do consumers like holiday creep? There are many factors at play.

Perhaps the top consideration is the bottom line. Many consumers start shopping in September or October (and even before Labor Day) to spread their holiday budget out over several months. Plus, stores offering competitive financing or layaway options allow families to shop early and avoid a money crunch in December and January. Though Black Friday might offer the best prices on big-ticket items, consumers can still find deals and sales in the fall months.

But perhaps consumers starting the hunt for the “perfect gift” early is by design – after all, they are looking for gifts for loved ones. Shopping early in the season allows consumers to purchase more customized or personalized gifts, which may require a longer processing time. In other words, ordering a gift that requires engraving in September will almost always be ready in time for Christmas; don’t even think about trying that the third week in December. Gift hunting earlier gives shoppers more time to find a great gift in stock and at a reasonable price.

Of course, once one retailer begins the holiday creep, others follow. One by one, retailers respond to shoppers willing to spend money, so they’re stocking shelves with holiday items sooner rather than risking falling behind.

And there’s one more benefit to holiday creep shopping: fewer crowds and shorter lines.

So don’t read too much into the headlines shouting of shopper disgust or fatigue: shoppers actually aren’t fazed by holiday creep and many choose to embrace it. Though there are many reasons why – fewer crowds, less stress over delivery times, or a purely financial decision – it’s clear that many are willing to shop before the holiday season officially begins.

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