Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Christmas 2010 starts...

Well, it is just 4 months away...

Retailers Moving Christmas A Little Closer

Call it the year of the Creeping Christmas: Retailers -- especially those with a major online presence -- are pushing holiday sales messages earlier this year, according to the just-released annual holiday benchmark report from Experian Marketing Services.

Marketers are expected to advertise Black Friday sales sooner, and extend them over greater time periods, Bill Tancer, Experian's general manager of global research, tells Marketing Daily. "Timing is going to be much more important, given the economy," he says. "Knowing when consumers begin thinking about holiday purchases can provide marketers with a big advantage over the competition."

Target is pushing that concept to the extreme, and launched a "Black Friday in July" sale on its Web site last month. While that might seem small -- one chain, after all, hardly counts as a trend -- Tancer says it did send ripples of shopping interest through the online world. "During the same period last year, there were only two search terms used often enough to be measurable -- 'Black Friday' and 'Black Friday 2009.'

"But this year, there were not only more searches, but under many more terms. 'Black Friday' and 'Black Friday 2010' came in first and second, but 'Black Friday in July' came in fourth, and even though Walmart wasn't doing a Black Friday event, its name came up in searches more often than Target's." Experian expects intense Web searching under "Black Friday" to begin early in September this year.

When it comes to pushing Christmas earlier and earlier, "there's very little downside for online retailers," Ted Vaughan, a partner in BDO's Retail and Consumer Product Practice, tells Marketing Daily. "They have the product on hand in their warehouses -- it's not like they have to use up space in stores. And it's not just a single holiday sale. They are trying to get customers for the long term. This gives them something to do to compete with Walmart."

Nor is there much risk of alienating customers. Those who like to shop early "get the opportunity to spread purchases out, with earlier discounting spread over a longer period," he says.

Vaughan has also seen layaway ads already: "The genie is out of the bottle, and now consumers are expecting it."

But while stores can woo these ultra-early birds with promotions, Tancer says another major trend this year will be stepped-up consumer procrastination, fueled by more efficient online shipping, the rise of online gift cards, and the tendency to wait it out for bargains. "Just as shoppers want to get the best deal they can online, so do online gift-givers, which means they will push their online shopping closer and closer to the end of the season."

(Source: Marketing Daily, 08/11/10)

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