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The Holiday Shopping Creep Wears Out its Welcome

Posted by: Amanda Yates on December 07, 2010

Every year the winter holiday decorations seem to appear even earlier than the year before. The Christmas trees at the mall, the lights on people’s homes, the holiday banners on city streets — all arrive before we’ve had a chance to eat our Halloween candy.

Retailers recognize our growing desire to get a jump on the buying (or at least the researching) of holiday gift lists, as well as the wish to stay at home on a comfy couch and browse online, versus fighting the crowds and lining up in the cold to get one of a limited number of door buster deals. In response, they offered online deals prior to Black Friday.

It paid off. Online spending increased 33 percent on Thanksgiving Day this year, and the average online spend over the course of the following weekend saw a 16 percent spike. And with these deals available, along with the added convenience of product reviews, price comparisons, larger inventories, and in many cases free shipping, it’s no wonder more and more shoppers are choosing the ease of online shopping. The so-called Cyber Monday is actually a Cyber Season.

While I am certainly one of those early online shoppers hoping to find a deal before I’m forced to wade through the masses at my local mall, I am a little dismayed by the ever-earlier beginning of holiday season. Maybe the urge is less acquisitive and more wishful than it appears. Perhaps those neighbors putting up their Christmas lights before Thanksgiving do have a yearning for the holiday “magic” that once could only be found in sparkling store windows back when shopping was a family event, or the tree lighting on mainstreet that was a community tradition.

I fear, however, that drawing out the period of what was once childlike anticipation and turning it into a two-and-a-half-month marathon of call-and-response for deals actually removes any vestige of holiday magic and the role brick-and-mortar retail once played. The truth is, we have become such deal-hungry and deal-expecting shoppers, we look for deals all year long. And the holiday creep is beginning to feel like the dubious practice of ambulance chasing — kind of creepy, a little desperate and certainly unimaginative.

The drawn-out holiday may be yet another sign that the brick-and-mortar store needs to find a way to become relevant and compelling in changed world, in a way that transcends deals.

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