Kennedy: Compressed holiday season raises stress level


Categories: Business

I was happy to hear that someone was as stressed as I am about this year’s compressed holiday season.

The late date of Thanksgiving may have resulted in just six fewer days between then and Christmas Eve, but it seems as if we lost more time than that.

So with less than two weeks before the big day, I’m stressing over gifts that are not only not yet purchased but also not yet conceived.

And a tree? We like fresh, but, no, it’s not standing decorated in the family room because we don’t have one yet. Outdoor decorations? Nope. Indoor? Zip.

Truth be told, all of the usual lights, bows, baubles and garland are still in the attic – we haven’t even taken the first step of marshaling them to the spare bedroom staging area.


But the folks at the National Retail Federation tell me my stress isn’t mine alone. “I’m feeling it,” Jennifer Overstreet, director of digital content, confessed on the trade group’s weekly podcast on Monday.

Responded Katherine Cullen, head of NRF’s consumer research division, “People are feeling … the compressed calendar.”

She posited that was why more people were out shopping during the traditional Black Friday kickoff to the season, which nowadays stretches from Thanksgiving on Thursday to Small Business Saturday and into Cyber Monday.

The NRF estimated nearly 190 million shoppers were in stores or online – or both – during the period, exceeding last year’s showing and the retail group’s own projections.

According to consumers surveyed over those days, Black Friday was the busiest day for in-store activity, followed by Small Business Saturday and Thanksgiving Day. And for the first time, Black Friday topped Cyber Monday as the busiest online day, the NRF reported.

Consumers’ toggling back and forth between in-store and online demonstrated “today’s seamless shopping world,” according to the group.

Cullen spoke to that on the podcast as she reviewed some of survey findings.

“What’s really become clear is that today’s consumer likes to have choice and if we try to pigeonhole them, they don’t respond,” she said.

Survey results showed increased smartphone shopping by consumers aged 55 and older, and more under-25 consumers in stores. Both served to “turn some … assumptions on their head,” she said.

Consumers shopping over the period reported they had completed about half of their holiday buying, according to the NRF, compared to a completion rate of 44 percent at the same time last year, when Thanksgiving fell earlier in the month.

Only about 40 percent of survey respondents expected that the deals seen over the Black Friday period would get better as the season went on.

Overall, Cullen said, close to nine out of 10 people reported they have started shopping.

And many of them began Nov. 1, according to earlier NRF surveys.

Yikes! My stress level just increased tenfold.

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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