Even though Christmas is still 40 days away, stores have already started setting up displays and holiday promotions. Samantha Brammer // DN
Are the holidays in November too soon?
The holiday season is still more than a month away, however, that doesn't prevent stores from displaying festive promotions before the Thanksgiving turkey even hits the dinner table.
Early holiday promotions can begin as early as October, and according to a survey conducted in 2016 by RichRevelance, 63 percent of the 1,000 individuals surveyed said they are annoyed when holiday items appear in stores before Halloween.
Some consumers in the Muncie area have expressed their annoyance about early holiday promotion, but Pam Suminski, store manager at T.I.S. College Bookstore, said customers — specifically parents — expressed so much interest in holiday products and ornaments that those items were put out some time between Family Weekend and Homecoming.
Retailers like T.I.S. order and sometimes receive their holiday products some time in the summer, which provides an explanation as to why holiday items are available for purchase immediately. However, marketing professor and department chair Susan Mantel said the practice of early holiday promotion continues to be fueled by consumer behavior.
"So, a consumer doesn’t have a set amount of Christmas presents they’re going to buy. A consumer has a group of Christmas presents that they might buy or might not buy and there are some that they absolutely have to buy, like your significant other," Mantel said.
Without a set amount of holiday presents, consumers can often become blindsided by holidays deals — a phenomena Mantel described as a "lost leader."
"If I’ve got a list of things I want to buy for Christmas and I can get you to come to my store earlier, then while I'm in the store picking up this thing that is on deal, maybe I decide, ‘Oh I’m going to buy something for uncle Joe.’ And I walk over to that department to buy it," Mantel said. "That’s called a lost leader. I used that discount to get you in the store and then hopefully you will buy more things."
This can explain why a quick run to the supermarket turns into an expedition, Mantel said. The item a customer came in to purchase was on sale or advertised as a deal, but as the customer is leaving, they may realize they need other products while they're out. The effectiveness of the deal can then be determined by "the shopping basket."
"I can evaluate that effectiveness of that promotion by looking at what we call the shopping basket, and that is the profit I make on everything you buy in my store — not just the thing you came in [for] that was on deal," Mantel said.
Retailers like Target, Mantel said, may use deals such as a dollar bin for "consumer bait" in the store or online. The items in those bins or with those deals often reflect the season, which then has the potential to lead consumers to the holiday section. Mantel said those items, for the most part, are solely there for a profit, no matter the time of year.
"If they've advertised it, you might walk in for the dollar things or you might have walked in for something else that you went there to get, maybe for your grocery shopping. You weren't planning on buying anything for Christmas, but 'wasn't that so cute' and 'look at how cheap it is,' and you buy it," Mantel said. "So in that scenario, they're making a margin and they're looking for a margin on that item so they're not selling that for a loss. It's really just a strategy."