The backlash of retailers jumping the holiday gun – also known as “holiday creep” – has become almost as much of a tradition as the holidays themselves. The joy of discounted Halloween candy turns quickly to grumbling when the next aisle over is stocked with tinsel and jingle bells, and the first holiday tunes come wafting through the air.
But the reality is, some retailers have good reason for starting the season early – and they have consumers’ best interests at heart. Still, they’ve got their work cut out for them.
“Can we have one holiday at a time?”
This is a popular consumer refrain in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, which is the holiday that SHOULD be the focus between Halloween and the December holidays. Instead, the day of thanks is often treated as a starting gun for retail’s biggest holiday, Black Friday.
In recent years, many businesses have stretched the Black Friday tradition into Thursday, with retailers such as Toys ‘R’ Us and Best Buy offering their deepest discounts earlier and earlier. But this year, some businesses, like Staples and GameStop, took a stand. They were closed on Thanksgiving so employees could enjoy the day, and opened at 6:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. respectively on Black Friday.
REI, the outdoor outfitter giant, took it a step further by remaining closed on Black Friday – urging customers to spend the day outdoors instead. A bold move on what is still one of the busiest shopping days of the year. (Though that doesn’t necessarily mean the most profitable.)
Online sales – and the advent of Cyber Monday – have cut into Black Friday sales in recent years. But as Market Track LLC’s Traci Gregorski says, “While the sales numbers on Black Friday have gone down, you can’t afford to not be competitive those times.”
Specialized gifts take longer
For all the grumbling about Black Friday, many still consider the day after Thanksgiving the official start of the holiday season – safe for decorating and loading up your iPhone with holiday tunes.
But for some businesses that’s still too late to meet a Christmas (or earlier for other holidays) deadline. Because certain customized or special order gifts require that extra bit of time – and if shoppers aren’t reminded of this, via a bit of early holiday advertising, they could miss out.
For instance, the process of creating a custom diamond engagement ring for the always-popular holiday proposal can be lengthy. The various considerations require much back-and-forth of emails and phone calls to settle on the shape, cut, size and color of the stone, and the metal for the setting – not to mention the design itself.
“All of this, along with sorting out financing, can take up to four weeks – ” according to diamond retailer Shining Diamonds, “so you see why it’s important to start now!”
To be sure shoppers are aware of the process, the company’s blog has been promoting the upcoming holidays since the first week of November. And they’re not alone.
Handmade and handcrafted items require extra time to complete and ship as well. For example, Etsy shop RoseUniqueStyle’s shipping and policies tab states, “an allowance of 7 – 10 days should be set prior to dispatch. Followed by 8 – 14 days on average for shipping.”
For these types of businesses Black Friday is meaningless, as most of their customers will make purchases well in advance of the post-Turkey Day shopping frenzy; whether it’s a customized diamond ring for a long-planned holiday marriage proposal, or simply a thoughtful, hand-crafted Christmas present.
The end is not nigh
But not to despair, if you’re a business that depends on Black Friday, or even the “holiday creep” that for some retailers starts as early as September, there are plenty of shoppers embracing the idea of being ahead of the game – even without custom gifts in the mix.
According to PayPal, “the 2014 U.S. shopping season started sometime between 6pm and 7pm PDT on September 30th, when they noticed a 62.81% spike in payment transactions.”
If it seems like a contradiction, it is. But Time Money’s Kit Yarrow makes a good point: “In fact, holiday creep is largely motivated by consumer behavior, and retailers are responding to their demands, which include their shopping needs being catered to anything, anywhere, on any device. It’s a mentality I call IWWIWWIWI (I want what I want when I want it).”
So do what you need to do, retailers. You already know you can’t please all people all of the time (no one can), but you’re bound to give enough of them what they want – and that, and the thought, is what counts.
IMAGE CREDIT: STEVE BAKER