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Can Mitt Romney, Barack Obama Beat Back the Christmas Creep?

Holiday Forecast Is Rosy, But Election Could Delay Marketing Campaigns

By Published on .

It's predicted to be a happy holiday season, even as some retailers are expected to delay marketing campaigns until after the election. That's right, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama could conspire to hold off Christmas Creep -- if only for a week.

Retailers ranging from Kmart to Best Buy to Kohl's have kicked off holiday marketing campaigns on Nov. 1 or Nov. 2 in recent years. But, given Election Day is Nov. 6, some industry watchers expect retailers will delay holiday campaigns until at least Nov. 7.

The Christmas Creep
The Christmas Creep

And many could stay away from expensive scatter buys, even as improvements in consumer confidence and predictions for a strong holiday make additional ad buys appealing. National retailers traditionally purchase a good portion of their holiday advertising during the upfront in May and June.

"Absolutely, if they can, they'll stay away from the swing states until right after the election," said Mike Gatti, a senior VP at the National Retail Federation. "The ads are really expensive during that peak time, and there's a lot of clutter to break through."

In year's past, Mr. Gatti says retailers have steered clear of advertising prior to Election Day, in favor of heavier media weights immediately following the election. "This year could be worse, because it's a lot more vocal," he said. "The spend is enormous for the campaigns compared to previous campaigns and that changes the availability of media."

Still, Mr. Gatti doesn't believe the election will have a huge impact on the holiday season, though it may look like the shopping season gets off to a slow start. Indeed, despite the looming election and an uncertain economy, the National Retail Federation is predicting holiday sales will jump 4.1% to $586.1 billion.

That prediction is particularly rosy, given it exceeds the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 3.5%. A year ago, sales rose 5.6%. Meanwhile, Shop.org, a division of NRF, is predicting online sales will grow 12% to $96 billion.

NRF's chief economist, Jack Kleinhenz, called the holiday forecast, defined as sales in November and December, "very pragmatic...given the current rate of economic growth."

NRF admitted this holiday season was particularly difficult to forecast, noting unimpressive job and income growth, as well as an unemployment rate hovering around 8%. However, the housing market is showing signs of recovery, and in September consumer confidence increased.

"This is the most optimistic forecast NRF has released since the recession," said Matthew Shay, NRF's president-CEO. "Variables including an upcoming presidential election, confusion surrounding the 'fiscal cliff' and concern relating to future economic growth could all combine to affect consumers' spending plans, but overall we are optimistic that retailers' promotions will hit the right chord with holiday shoppers."

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