Oh boy! Over a week before Halloween and ALREADY the shelves in the 99-Cent store are stuffed with Christmas glitz. Stores roll out their Christmas goodies earlier every year, but this — with Thanksgiving more than a month away — is Crazyville. Or so I think till a little research informs me that 40% of consumers now begin their Christmas purchases before Halloween. And some stores are even starting to load their shelves with holiday merchandise as early as September. So both consumers and stores appear to be jumping the Christmas gun together. Consumers, to spread their purchases out over a longer period of time and stores because holiday sales can represent 25 to 40% of their yearly figures and make or break them.
And just how wide are American wallets predicted to open this Christmas? Optimistically the National Retail Federation expects sales to rise nearly 2.8%. Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz predicts a paltry 1% sales increase (along with a “lousy” Christmas). A Reuters survey, however, is an even bigger wet blanket, concluding that 27% of Americans plan to spend even less this year than last.
Along with familiar retail tricks to get shoppers to cough up holiday cash — like 50% off signs, door buster deals (comprising 4 or 5 items to keep it legal), holiday scents (cinnamon and roasting chestnuts) and free sample Christmas cookies — music tempo is crucial too. To encourage bigger spending, stores have to play music with a fairly sedate tempo. If the tempo has too much zip, customers will pick up their pace, sail past the merchandise and out the doors. Another customer no-no is something called the “butt brush” factor. Meaning if shoppers sense their personal space is invaded, they will leave the store, no matter how enthralled they might be with the merchandise.
Think Black Friday has the best holiday deals? Think again. It has the best foot traffic, true, but because of the recession, stores will be offering deep discounts throughout the season, especially on the Sat before Christmas and, for Internet shoppers, on Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
For many shoppers, Black Friday has become a family tradition. For them, standing outside stores in the bitter cold at 4:30 am is an eagerly anticipated social ritual (hard to fathom, but true). In 2008 that eagerness and competitive compulsion to save money boiled over when a Wal-Mart employee opened the door to surging crowds and was trampled to death. And among last year’s reports of violence on Black Friday, a Wisconsin woman not only had the nerve to cut in line, but further compounded her aggression by whipping out a gun and threatening other customers (don’t mess with a woman on a freezing, middle-of-the-night money saving mission).
My own Christmas shopping has become ever more simplified. Years ago, I cut out the holiday card hoopla and now shop for fairly modest gifts online or in my own neighborhood. How about you?
More on Christmas:
- Are You a High Roller Holiday Spender?
- Christmas Quotes with Zing
- Christmas Cookies – Healthy, Gluten Free and Beloved Classics
- Christmas Lights NYC