‘Christmas Creep’: Why do holiday decorations hit store shelves so early?

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FILE – In this Nov. 9, 2018, file photo Christmas decorations are shown at a Walmart Supercenter in Houston. Timing is everything when it comes to saving for the holidays. The longer you have to build up cash reserves, plan your budget and buy gifts at the right price, the better you can cover these seasonal costs without going into debt. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Every year, it seems holiday decorations pop up on store shelves earlier and earlier. 

In fact, there is even a word for it – “Christmas Creep,” or the tendency for Christmas products, decorations, and advertising to be displayed earlier each year.

While we are more than three months from Thanksgiving and four from Christmas, it is possible you will see holiday decorations soon. 

But why?

Dr. Kristy Grayson, a marketing professor at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah, tells ABC4.com how soon you see decorations is likely because of you and other shoppers. 

“Retailers base visual merchandising and product placement in their stores based on past purchase trends, competitive landscape, and future projections of consumer demand,” Grayson explains. “For many stores, particularly big-box retailers, these plans are often completed at least one year in advance. It is likely the case that shifts in consumer shopping behavior since the pandemic has influenced retailers to rethink their holiday product and promotion calendars based on new shopping pattern data.”

In 2020, retailers were reporting shoppers purchasing holiday decorations sooner than before. This may be because decorating earlier for holidays could make you happier, according to a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

As retailers plan well in advance to stock their shelves with garland, lights, candy, and more, Grayson says there are several reasons why these items and visual promotions are seen in stores weeks and months in advance. 

One reason is to reach a certain segment of shoppers: those who spread their shopping out over time for their budget, Grayson says. 

Another reason is the ability to shop online. 

“With the large shift in consumer behavior from shopping at physical retail stores to eCommerce websites, retailers seek to use their in-store holiday promotion as a channel of communication,” Grayson explains. “For example, you may be shopping for milk and bread and notice the Christmas Holiday section. This is stored in your short – or long – term memory which may be triggered when you are ready to make a holiday purchase later either in-store or online.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted consumer behavior, and in turn, impacts when holiday decorations may appear.

“Some consumers feel more comfortable shopping when stores are less crowded to avoid Covid exposure,” says Grayson. She continues, saying a fear of scarcity of products may also prompt shoppers to hit the stores sooner for their Thanksgiving and Christmas decor. 

SLIDESHOW: Empty shelves seen amid the COVID-19 pandemic

  • Store shelves

“The images of empty shelves in retail stores and the inability to obtain essential items such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies is still top of mind for many buyers. The thought of missing out on the ability to purchase holiday decorations, specialty food and candy items is concerning to those who cherish these traditions with friends and family.”

Overall, Grayson explains retailers are more likely to make their merchandising decisions based on data from previous purchases and future projections than specific holidays.

So while it is only August, you may already begin seeing Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas decorations. We want to know – is it ever too early to see holiday decorations in stores?

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