It’s hard to miss that the holiday shopping season is in full swing. In fact, retailers have been brow-beating the general public with holiday ads and promotions so much already this year that it feels like Christmas should be next week.
Of course it’s painfully cliche to gawk at the idea that retailers keep pushing the holiday shopping season earlier and earlier every year, but it’s not without reason. The general public can boo-hoo the commercialization of our sacred family holidays, but it’s consumer spending behavior that actually drives the trend for earlier and earlier holiday promotions.
“Four in 10 shoppers say they buy gifts early in the season, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF) — 41.2% of U.S. shoppers say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween. A good many, 12.4% say they started before September and nearly 30% plan to shop in September and October.” - Forbes
For the first time, the National Retail Federation has asked shoppers why they started shopping so early:
“Of those who shop prior to or in September and October, 60.3% do so to spread out their budget. Another 42% said the prices and promotions are too good to pass up.”
One of the major driving forces of this early shopping behavior is omnichannel availability and ubiquity of products. Why run around town searching for that perfect gift, or wait for that special deal from your local big box retailer, when you can price-check products from your mobile device, have the item delivered for free or schedule a store pickup. Add in generous returns policies and price matching guarantees, and the risk of buying too early and missing a deal later becomes extremely low.
True omnichannel integration is still a glimmer in the eye of most retailers, but fast forward a few years to when next-day free shipping is available from every major retailer, the idea of checking if a product is ‘in stock’ is a relic of the past, and retail space is more about inspiring shoppers than warehousing products.
Add in advances in on-demand production technologies like 3D printing and the general principals of supply and demand that drive holiday deals, clearance sales, and fear-of-missing-out scrambles to get the last of that “hot holiday toy your daughter just has to have” are suddenly thrown out of whack.
Perhaps the concept of “crowded masses waiting in long checkout lines” holiday shopping season is in danger of becoming obsolete all together. Why wait in line at 5am for those black Friday supersales when you can know exactly what’s in stock at your local store and have anything you want drop-shipped to your house the next day? The rationale for retailers to even run loss-leader sales becomes muddy in an on-demand, always-available shopping environment.
How omnichannel shopping and on-demand production will actually play out with retail trends is anyone’s guess, but if one of your holiday traditions is bonding over tales of fighting through crowded malls and department stores to find that perfect gift, do it this year while you still have the chance.