We got a couple inches of snow last night in upstate New York... in October... but why shouldn't we? Last week, I had to walk past several winter holiday displays to use the bathroom at Sears. A couple of relatives are already interested in what's on my Christmas list so they can "get their shopping done earlier this year."As consumers, we've started to lump Halloween into the "holiday season" with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, New Year's Day, and Festivus. We're quick to criticize the big box stores for whetting our appetites, but eager to get the celebrations under way. It's the age-old debate about whether marketers are shaping consumer needs or consumers are demanding changes in market trends.
In my opinion, there's a little of both. Sears puts a holiday display in the back of the store in October, baiting the hook. If the consumers don't bite early, it stays in back a little longer. But at some point, there's enough demand to move the fake snow to the main window display.
There's no risk involved in this process. Stores don't guess when the consumers might be ready to see holiday decorations. They don't wait for the first snowfall (thankfully, or we'd see animal-tronic reindeer on Columbus Day). The big box model shows the marketers and consumers are in charge simultaneously.
But what if your small business decided to have a Christmas party in September? Or you sent out holiday greetings 3 months earlier than everyone else? You can make light of our spending habits and show that you're on the same page with your consumers. Ultimately, people do business with other people. Show them you're a real person before the big boxes swallow them up!