Christmas in October

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I walked past a store the other day and noticed that it had some artificial Christmas trees featured in the window.

After taking a closer look, it wasn’t just some, but an entire forest of artificial trees, ready to be purchased, and, I guess, stored away for Christmas.

I’m still not all that comfortable with Christmas in October, but retailers are again starting early to cash in on the holiday season before we even get there.

The season bails retailers out of the slow months following back-to-school sales, which bail out the slow summer sales.

Having some family members working in retail, I can safely say that this is not how retailers want to boost sales. They would prefer to wait until we get closer to the season before making a big push.

Store employees wish they didn’t have to peddle the holiday season this early and would prefer to enjoy Thanksgiving with their families instead of eating and hurrying to open their stores and staying open all night.

Shoppers flock to stores that open early to scoop up the advertised sales, and the stores make a lot of money. If they didn’t have any customers at 2 a.m., they would not waste money on labor and lights.

About 40% of retailers’ business comes between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but nobody waits until then to get the ball rolling.

Toys R Us released in September its “hot list” of what it hopes will be its best-selling toys, including a hugging Elmo doll by Hasbro ($59.99), a Razor Crazy go-cart ($399.99), and a loom that lets kids make rubber band bracelets ($14.99), according to an industry report. (Maybe they should have waited a little longer, and include drones on the list, which are now expected to be a crazy seller.)

Kmart aired its first holiday commercial — 100 days before Christmas. The company, in a statement to ABC News, said it isn’t so much jumping the holiday gun as it is trying to do shoppers a favor: “Customers can plan in advance and order to take advantage of layaway for holiday purchases.”
Holiday sales are expected to increase about 4 percent this year, but that’s neither here or there. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and open those stores at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, or lose out on sales hours.

Since retailers take their best guesses based on customer data, here are a few shopping tactical tips:

• Don’t shop at odd hours. I would get to the mall after 9 a.m. or later on Thanksgiving Friday after a leisurely breakfast of leftover turkey and eggs.

• Watch college football games on Thanksgiving Thursday, and eat.

• If you see a holiday season commercial 100 days early, don’t buy that product.

• Buy a Christmas tree, real or artificial, after Thanksgiving. I always put mine up a week before Christmas and take it down sometime in February (just joking).

• Enjoy Halloween without any interference from Christmas.

• Enjoy Thanksgiving without any interference from Christmas.

• Shop at independent, locally-owned shops as much as possible. On average, at least 48 percent of each purchase at local independent businesses is recirculated locally, compared to less than 14 percent of purchases at chain stores.

• And in those shops, spend all the money you have saved on gas this year, on presents.

So, if we stop shopping early and don’t wait for hours just so we can storm a store for advertised specials, then the stores will eventually stop jumping the gun on Christmas.

But, all bets are off if someone puts a 65-inch HD TV on sale for under $300. I’ll be camping out for that one.