Consumers tired of seeing Christmas trees and Santas before they dole out Halloween candy are in luck this year. With the exception of a few ads that began airing in September, most retailers will delay their holiday spots until after the Nov. 8 election, experts expect.
"The way the airwaves are going to be dominated, for basically the next four-and-half or five weeks, it'll be difficult to get messages through on anything other than the election," said Matthew Shay, chief executive-president of the National Retail Federation. "In spite of the distraction the election presents, we're optimistic for holiday spending."
Indeed, the NRF is expecting a robust 3.6% increase in sales this holiday season. The forecast follows last year's prediction of a 3.7% uptick in sales, which, due to an unseasonably warm winter that left retailers holding the bag on winter inventory like coats, turned into a scant 3% increase at the end of the season. Already this year, retailers are dealing with a warmer-than-usual start to fall.
NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz found that, starting in September through Election Day, ad space, particularly in swing states, is running low on inventory and screen time will be competitive for any non-political organizations, according to an NRF spokeswoman. After Nov. 8, holiday ads are expected to ramp up in aggression.
"Once it's past the second week in November, we're back in game time again," said Mr. Kleinhenz.
Gap Inc.-owned Old Navy said it will begin airing holiday-themed spots with its newest spokeswoman Amy Schumer on Veteran's Day, which falls on Nov. 11 this year.
Kohl's Chief Merchandising and Customer Officer Michelle Gass recently told Ad Age she expects Kohl's holiday marketing timeline to be similar to last year's, with advertising focused on November and December. The Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based retailer will offer unique Black Friday promotions and continue to maneuver its media mix into more digital assets.
Yet not everyone is waiting until the votes are in. Kmart began airing an ad starring characters resembling Santa and an elf last month. The 30-second commercial, which promotes the long-struggling brand's layover program, has already aired roughly 1,200 times, according to real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv, which lists the creative agency as Draftfcb. Sears-owned Kmart typically begins its holiday campaigns in September.