October 27, 2021

While I did not write about it, I was surprised (not shocked) when I saw the bird food I came in to buy in late September had been downsized and moved to interior shelves in the market I frequent.  The shelves were now empty, but they had all been labeled with the products that were expected to shortly fill them.  The bird food aisle had been designated to accept the new Christmas lights that will soon adorn the houses of our community.  I recalled this experience because last night I noticed the first of the Christmas commercials that will soon dominate our TV ads.  I am not saying they were the first, but at least they were the first to creep into my notice.

When I checked online, I found that a lot of people seem to have the feeling that Christmas marketing seems to get earlier every year.  It is still the beginning of fall and most of us are focused on Halloween, but there are already Christmas and holiday products hitting shelves.  This phenomenon is known as “Christmas Creep.”  Christmas creep refers to the sense that the holiday season is gradually lengthening, beginning earlier each year, typically in early fall.  The term was added to Merriam Webster’s “Words We’re Watching,” who commented: “It seems to never be employed in celebratory fashion but rather functions as a shorthand for the existential dread and disgust that many people feel at the apparent increasing commercialization and banality of the season.”  Ya think?

According to retail expert Andrew Smith, co-founder and managing partner for the Americas of Think Uncommon, the creep is more imagined than real.  “Over the last 20 years it has certainly been brought forward in stores slightly, but generally speaking it’s the same most years.”  However, he added that pressure on supply chains during the pandemic has sped up the shift to e-commerce, leading retailers to try to creep the Christmas period back to help boost sales.  During 2020, shoppers were concerned about potential lockdowns, and many began shopping for the holiday season even earlier.  During 2021 the concern has shifted from lockdowns to supply chain issues.  As I found recently, the merchant may sell the product, then caution they cannot guarantee when it will arrive.  Sitting in the port is not the same as on the shelf.  

Thoughts:  I found another interesting shift in holiday shopping that began in 2020 that will likely continue through at least 2021.  Many shoppers wanted to get gifts early but were unsure or even unable to find the items they wanted.  That gave rise to an increase in local gift cards.  The gift card allows the recipient to go to the store at their leisure and pick their choice of items that existed on the shelves.  This has pros and cons.  It is hard to get excited over my new bike on Christmas morning when it comes wrapped in an envelope holding a gift card.  Then again, you never worry about getting Bunny Suit Pajamas from Aunt Clara.  Whether the December holiday is Hanukah, Christmas, or Kwanza, the point is not about gifts but about the love included in sharing.   It may not be so bad to allow this gift to creep back into the rest of the year.  Do the work.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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