What Happened to Thanksgiving?

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Target Holiday Retail

Remember Thanksgiving? The holiday that comes between Halloween and Christmas? Today, as the shopping season seems to come earlier than ever, Thanksgiving serves as the unofficial kick-off to the holiday shopping season. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are no longer part of the retailers’ secret lexicon. They are now as American as turkey and stuffing, sweet potato casserole and marshmallows.

If you think the holiday season is commencing earlier than ever this year, you are right. Due to a trick of the calendar, there are only four shopping weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. Normally there are five. With Thanksgiving falling on November 28th, that leaves 25 days—as opposed to the usual 31—for retailers to make crucial sales.

Sensing urgency, marketers are pulling out the holiday promotions earlier than ever, with several getting out the tinsel and candy canes before Halloween. The first salvo in the promotion war was fired by Walmart when it announced its holiday layaway plan— way back in August. According to recent survey of holiday marketers by Experian Marketing Services, nearly half stated that they would launch a holiday campaign before Halloween, potentially making Black Friday a thing of the past.

So what’s driving the Christmas creep?

There are several factors at work which are pushing holiday retail marketing up, only a few of which can be attributed to the quirks of the calendar. The most powerful of all might be the rise of e-commerce. Consumers simply don’t have to wait for a single day of the year before they head to the mall to capture savings on marked down items. And retailers are accommodating them.

Last year Americans went to the polls (instead of the mall) to elect a president. The influence of spending on electoral year television ads had a dampening effect on retail promotions, according to Alison Kenny Paul, head of Deloitte Consulting’s retail practice. Quoted on DailyFinance.com, Paul said, “Between paid political advertising and media attention, the election crowded out the ability for retailers to get their message out there earlier. This year Paul predicts, “We’ll see more advertising and promotions earlier this year.”

Consumer uncertainty in the face of a soft economy, a government sequester, and a shutdown, have put retailers on edge. Instead of complacently waiting for shoppers to reach for their wallets, retailers are aggressively pushing their sales and promotions. If Black Friday doesn’t make the cash registers ring, look for even more deals and discounts during the first two months of December.

Holiday Sales Predictions

For better or worse, retailers no longer have to wait for Black Friday to come and go to predict their holiday sales. They have no farther to look than Halloween. And this year the shopping season looks merry and bright. According to Olivia Tang, analyst for IBIS world, quoted in Progressive Grocer, “Halloween spending fully recovered in 2011 when it surpassed its 2008 peak of $6.1 billion. This year, as Americans continue to relieve their pent-up demand that lingered from the recession, IBISWorld expects almost every category to benefit.”

All of which means that Black Friday is becoming a permanent state of mind. According to the National Retail Federation “Each year, about 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping before Halloween.”

For retailers who can’t wait for Halloween sales to predict Black Friday sales, which predict Christmas sales, there’s always the forecast from the National Retail Federation. On October 3rd, 2013, a press release put out by the NRF stated, “NRF expects sales in the months of November and December to marginally increase 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion, over 2012’s actual 3.5 percent holiday season sales growth. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3 percent.”

Gigwalk Can Help Boost Holiday Sales at Retail

While we can’t predict the future or how the government shut down will impact consumers, we do know holiday sales will be as frantic as ever. Hot items will fly out the doors, ensuring under stocked shelves. And last minute shoppers will still show up on Christmas eve looking for deals on just about anything. To ensure your season is a success, rely on Gigwalk to help with holiday promotions. Our army of Gigwalkers can be deployed at a moment’s notice to make sure promotions are executed correctly at retail, pricing is accurate, and displays continue to spread that holiday cheer.

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