By Julia Grippe
Some stores start putting out Christmas items as early as June despite the negative comments made by consumers.
The Christmas creep is a marketing and sales phenomenon where stores compete to get the early dollar, which results in the holiday season starting earlier and earlier each year.
Bonnie Knutson, a hospitality business professor at MSU and expert in buying trends and strategic marketing, says people have less money to spend in the current economy, but they are always willing to spend on their children and family.
“If retail stores don’t get their share during the Christmas season, they are going to have to work twice as hard the rest of the year,” said Knutson.
Knutson said that consumers have four emotions: happy, sad, glad or afraid. Consumers buy most when they are happy.
Retail stores tend to push the idea of Christmas because the holiday season is usually a happy time of the year. This results in consumers buying more, said Knutson.
Some stores, such as Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, have made an industry of Christmas 365 days a year, said Knutson.
Even when on vacation in a warm place, Knutson said she always buys a Christmas ornament. People still think about Christmas even in the off-season.
Retail stores are starting to advertise for Christmas more aggressively on the Internet. Knutson said people are doing more research online for what they want to buy so they can get their shopping done faster when physically in the store.
“The less time in the mall, the less time for impulse buying,” Knutson said.
The day after Thanksgiving, or better known as black Friday, is a strategic way to get consumers in their stores and to get the early dollar, Knutson said.
Typically, stores usually open as early as 4 a.m on black Friday but recently some stores are staying open for a full 24 hours. Other stores are even having online specials the day of Thanksgiving, said Knutson.
Erica Johnson, the executive team leader at Target in Okemos, said this year they are being more aggressive by opening at midnight like stores such as Walmart did last year.
Johnson said Christmas ads for Target go out the first week in November, and Christmas merchandise usually goes up right after Halloween decorations come down. Target must condense their Halloween items in order to put Christmas items up.
“We not only want the earliest ad but also the best and most creative ad,” said Johnson.
For craft stores, the holiday season starts even earlier than the end of October. Scott Pertz, store manager at Hobby Lobby in East Lansing, said the Christmas supply comes out as early as June.
“We could have Christmas stuff out year round and it would sell,” said Pertz.
Hobby Lobby receives Christmas shipment in April, and since Christmas is such a large area, they need to start putting it out early in order for the entire shipment to be out in time and look presentable, said Pertz.
Christmas items alone take up 26 aisles in the store, said Pertz.
Pertz said they start with the things people need to make and create crafts such as wreaths and ornament kits and then start putting out decorations and other merchandise.
“If we put Christmas supplies out earlier, we have a better chance of selling it at full price,” said Pertz.
Hobby Lobby gets a negative reaction from its customers when they see Christmas items out in June and keep making negative comments all the way through September, said Pertz.
“They say things such as, ‘I can’t believe you’re putting this out already,’” he said.
He said the people who actually like the Christmas supplies out early don’t say anything at all.
Dale Wilson, a marketing professor at MSU said, “People love to complain.”
When it comes to the holiday season, many people argue that Christmas is commercialized.
Wilson said Christmas is a major holiday and retailers want their share of it.
Many of the MSU marketing students learn about the “cumulative effect,” said Wilson. This theory explains that as you see and hear different advertisements, the effect of those ads builds over time. “The first time you see an ad, it might not work. The third or fourth time, it becomes effective.”
When talking about Christmas advertisements, Wilson said there is an advantage to early advertising and putting out Christmas merchandise early.
“It can be annoying, but it works to have those types of items out early.”
Although a lot of people complain and say negative things, Wilson said he doesn’t think it turns anybody off from buying items from stores that put Christmas supplies out early.
“It’s not like they wont go back to that store,” he said.
One reason stores are more aggressive during the holiday season is because a lot of retail stores don’t make a lot of money until after Thanksgiving.
“The period between Thanksgiving and News Years adds to the profit.”