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Christmas advertising appearing earlier, despite consumer disapproval

Submitted by Alexis Williams on December 3, 2013 – 2:06 pmNo Comment

Illustration by Logan Sturgill

A peek into the nearest retail store—even as early as October—might fool one into believing Christmas came early this year. The reality is that many businesses are opting to display their yuletide merchandise weeks before Dec. 1, and they are not asking for permission.

In a CBS Connecticut online article  entitled, “Stores Nationwide Begin Holiday Season Early Despite Negative Reaction,” psychology professor Laura Brannon at Kansas State University explains a possible logic behind this interesting phenomenon:

“Even if the media doesn’t influence people’s attitudes toward a candidate, for example, focusing a lot on the economy gets people thinking about the economy,” she said. “Similarly, stores are probably trying to get people into the shopping spirit by getting them to think about a shopping season.”

This means that the retailers are not waiting until it is traditionally-appropriate to advertise and display merchandise. They are taking an active role in pushing consumers toward earlier Christmas shopping by putting it in their faces sooner than expected.

How does this idea fare with students on campus?

Kelly Montgomery, a sophomore psychology major, said she liked Christmas’s earlier appearance.

“Retail stores are certainly getting ready for Christmas earlier and earlier each year. This year, I saw Christmas decorations going up as early as September. I enjoy seeing Christmas decorations going up right after Halloween. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I like to keep it around as long as possible,” she said.

Though she largely approves of the practice, Montgomery expressed a desire for more inclusion of the November holiday. “I do wish that stores would put out Thanksgiving decorations or advertisements. With retailers pushing Christmas almost directly following Halloween, it seems like Thanksgiving is almost forgotten.”

Montgomery also said that she thinks Christmas decorations should start going up the week before Thanksgiving; doing so allows shoppers to jump right into Christmas shopping following Thanksgiving.

“As for Christmas shopping, I try to get mine done before Black Friday,” Montgomery said. “It may sound silly to be finished shopping by the beginning of November, but it sure is nice avoiding the holiday crowds.”

Junior Brittnie Tippitt, an early childhood education major, shares Montgomery’s festive spirit but said she is uncomfortable with early advertising. “Christmas decorations were out before Halloween this year. I feel it is okay to start shopping earlier, but displaying [decorations] earlier and earlier takes away from the joyous season. You can buy a ghost and witch’s costume on one aisle, then a Christmas tree and angel on the other.”

“Right after Thanksgiving is when I start playing my Christmas music, decorating my house, and watching Christmas movies. It’s always been that way for me,” Tippitt continued. “Christmas sales and shopping can start early to help those who need it, but it can take away from the enjoyment of the season if [it is] out too early or overly advertised. Seeing Santa while it’s still 85 degrees is not hot!”

One might think that the opinions of these students, as well as of the ordinary consumer, would seem be top priority for retailers. However, another psychology professor, Krystine Batcho of Le Moyne College, disclosed in the CBS article a very alarming outlook about the consumer-producer relationship that this current trend engenders.

“At this time, business owners might ignore consumer complaints [about seeing early Christmas advertising], because they feel that consumers have little choice,” Batcho said. “Holiday buying is so expected in our culture, that people feel obligated to buy gifts regardless of any irritation they might feel about early advertising.”

The decision to move up the Christmas shopping season was not a spontaneous one; it actually arose from a number of factors: the loss of six selling days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the consensus among retailers that “The sooner, the better” and the recent spike in competition between physical stores and online stores. Thanks to websites like BlackFriday.com, shoppers can filter through available online deals advertised days before the eponymous holiday.

“The largest sales of the year for most retailers is the holiday season. The hope is that we shop earlier and continue to buy during the season and increase overall spending,”  said Jane Wayland, dean of the College of Business.

Dean Wayland said that moving up Chrismas does not necessarily increase profits. “Deep discounts eat into profits, so profits will depend on how deep the discounts will be made just to move the merchandise. The economy and the weather will always affect sales.”

Chris Harms, North Little Rock Hobby Lobby store manager , proposed another reason his store displays merchandise earlier: because they need to. Hobby Lobby is not a typical retail outlet in terms of goods sold.

“Since we are an arts and crafts store, we get stuff out early so that people can begin making their decorations. Our Christmas trees go out in the middle of August. If we wait until closer to Christmas, people will not have enough time to decorate their homes.”

Harms disagreed with the notion of “too early” for displaying Christmas merchandise. “[Displaying] gives customers an idea as to what they want to make.You’ll get some people who will look at ornaments right around when school starts.”

“People say, “Man, you guys already have out Christmas stuff?” Yes we do. People want it in the middle of summer. That’s when they begin looking for trees, ” Harms said. “We are already out of trees, and it’s not even Thanksgiving.”

For Harms and Hobby Lobby, preparing for the Christmas crowds is not only a tactic but a rule. “Black Friday is not our busiest day. Dec. 17 will probably be our biggest day of the year. That’s when we get hit really hard on decorations for home and things like that,” Harms said. “After Christmas or a little before, we start setting up for spring.”

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