Why Christmas Is Coming Early This Year


While shopping for beach wear and back-to-school supplies this summer, don't be surprised to find Christmas deals in the next aisle. Several retailers are starting the holiday push earlier this year—a move that industry experts say won't guarantee improved sales.

Sears Holding Corp. has launched a “Christmas Lane” shopping portal for its Sears and K-Mart brands. The home page of Sears’ Christmas Lane shows a jet cruising over a winter wonderland scene bearing the banner, "Free shipping on Christmas Lane purchases over $60.” The site invites consumers to "beat the holiday rush" and offers stocking stuffers, as well as other (typically seasonal) deals.

Toys “R” Us, likewise, kicked off an in-store and online "Christmas in July" sale touting “scorching savings.” The promotion, which ran July 19 through 25, offered discounts on popular toys and gaming systems, including the Wii and Xbox 360. There was also an in-store component where parents could take advantage of such deals while their children made Christmas cards and participated in holiday festivities.

Though marketers usually roll out a blitz of back-to-school, swimsuit and vacation advertising during the summer months, Toys “R” Us claims there’s a need for early Christmas deals in tough times. “Everyone needs ‘a little Christmas, right this very minute,’” the company said in a press release announcing the offer.

Experts, however, characterize such promos as a balancing act, and caution marketers against selling shoppers the frills, as consumers are pinching pennies.

Mike Gatti, executive director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a division of the National Retail Federation, said though holiday sales may see a “bit of improvement” this year, consumers will still mostly be focused on the basics.

Jon Weber, a vp specializing in retail and packaged goods at L.E.K. Consulting, argued that consumers are more likely to take advantage of deals on a flat screen TV or other big ticket item that they’ve made up their minds on purchasing. But the promos might not work well on smaller ticket purchases, such as apparel. Weber added that early bird shoppers are likely to be more receptive. “Some people put it off. [But] if you put the stuff out early, you can get a little bit of a jump, especially in an economy like this.”

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