Shoppers, Retailers Divided on Timing of Seasonal Onslaught

Consumers May Complain, but Shopping Habits Prompt Kohl's, Macy's and Others to Early Blitzes

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's impossible to say when Christmas Creep first cropped up, though the Peanuts gang was already bemoaning the trend in the 1974 classic "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown." The kids head out to buy Easter supplies and are disgusted to find Christmas decorations cluttering the store and a sign reading "Only 246 Days Until Xmas."

Credit: Asaf Hanuka
It won't go that far this year, but the bulk of major retailers are still kicking off holiday campaigns nearly two months before Christmas. Best Buy began its holiday effort on Nov. 1, 10 days earlier than last year.

The following day, Kohl's debuted its first holiday radio spots and will promote Christmas-themed sales throughout November, though it will wait until after Thanksgiving to run TV spots. Macy's holiday campaign kicked off on Nov. 7 with an animated TV spot that drew inspiration from the retailer's "Yes, Virginia" holiday special. JCPenney began running a holiday ad promoting its relationship with the Salvation Army's Angel Giving Tree on Nov. 1, though its main holiday campaign won't launch until Nov. 15.

Target appears to be one of the few exceptions. In deference to consumer burnout its main holiday campaign won't launch until the weekend after Thanksgiving.

"Our readers are pretty divided on the whole Christmas Creep thing," said Chris Morran, senior editor at Consumerist.com, which regularly documents the creep. "There are those that find it truly offensive and gaudy and unnecessary. And there are those that don't care at all and those that actually like it. ... People are, sadly, getting used to it."

And the phenomenon seems to have accelerated in the past few years. Two years ago Kmart launched "Early Black Friday" sales two days after Halloween. This year, Black Friday-themed sales began the Friday before Halloween.

Mike Gatti, exec director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, said things really seem to have accelerated this year. "[Retailers] are excited about the potential for it to be a better year," he said, noting the National Retail Federation forecasts a 2.3% increase in holiday sales. "It's a chance to get out there and grab some market share."

Pictures documenting Christmas Creep began rolling into Consumerist.com in mid-September this year. "It's definitely happening more and more," said Mr. Morran. "And it isn't just Christmas Creep now. You start seeing Valentines the day after Christmas. At some point there's got to be diminishing returns."

Mr. Morran also referenced a story he posted on June 24 documenting back-to-school displays in a Union City, N.J. Staples. Students in the area had just wrapped up classes that week.

In the words of Charlie Brown, "good grief."

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