Kennedy: Retailers start holiday sales earlier


Categories: Business

“Get ready for the madness!” I texted my daughters last week, attaching an article from a trade publication about Walmart’s plans to launch its earlier-than-ever holiday sales campaign.

It’s a routine the three of us have developed over the last few years: a quick text and mutual eye-roll whenever we find evidence of a retailer pushing the envelope on a season – pumpkin-spice products in August; Valentine’s Day candy right after Christmas; back-to-school supplies soon after classes let out in June.

This year, I texted them a photo on Labor Day of rows of artificial Christmas trees displayed at a local big-box store. (“That’s insane!” replied one.) Two weeks later, I sent them a pix of cartons of eggnog in the dairy case at the supermarket. (“Too early. Too aggressive,” said the other.)

So Walmart’s announcement merited sharing, too.

The company said it would usher in the 2019 holiday season at midnight Oct. 25 with online offers dubbed “Early Deals Drop” that discounted some merchandise akin to Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving that traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season.

This year, though, Thanksgiving falls on the calendar as late in November as it can, reducing the time to shop between then and Christmas Eve by six days.

Walmart’s announcement cited the compressed timetable, saying it had geared up online and in stores to “help customers make the most of this year’s shortened holiday season” through earlier savings and more conveniences. One example of the latter is “Check Out with Me,” an option at supercenters that lets customers cash out with a sales associate anywhere in the store, rather than just at the main bank of registers.

Walmart, of course, isn’t alone in talking up plans for the holidays.

Target, for instance, announced it is doubling the number of employees focused on fulfillment in order to meet expanding same-day delivery promises. Best Buy says it is giving loyalty group members early access to some deals and discounts. And don’t be
surprised if your local supermarket puts gift card displays in coveted end-cap positions, since the cards are a growing favorite of both givers and receivers.

While the calendar may have pushed up the 2019 shopping season, the National Retail Federation notes that some 40 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween each year.

“While most retailers do not begin holiday advertising until at least October, they recognize that many people like shopping early to spread out their spending,” says the group, which predicts as much as $730.7 billion in holiday retail sales this year, or 4
percent more than in 2018.

Early-bird shoppers also are why we may see some holiday items – like ornaments and artificial trees – as soon as September, according to NRF, since consumers often buy them months in advance.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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