No, it isn't your imagination: More than ever, Christmas is creeping up on Halloween. From references to "doorbusters" -- a word most of America associates with the day after Thanksgiving -- in JCPenney ads during the World Series to Kohl's new holiday campaign to Target's major pre-Thanksgiving promotion, retailers are determined to get consumers shopping sooner.
"It is starting earlier," Scott Erickson, a partner in the retail practice of Deloitte, which just released a major holiday spending survey, tells Marketing Daily. "A lot of retailers are seeing that consumers have been a little reluctant to break out their wallets, and they are really believing that the November/December timeframe are going to be critical. They are trying to take advantage of that by moving the holiday period into October if they can."
Kohl's, for example, says its new holiday campaign, themed "Give, Save and Be Merry!," is set to break in print, direct mail, email, digital and social media, as well as TV and radio. (It's also launching new mobile access to Kohls.com.) The company says it is stepping up the number of Power Hour, Bonus Buy, Early Bird and two-day special offers throughout the season.
And Target just announced a pre-Thanksgiving four-day sale, and says it will offer deep discounts on toys, electronics and more. Beginning Sunday, Nov. 21, the chain says it will offer exclusive deals on more than 170 items including toys, electronics and movies. It's also promoting a Thanksgiving Day Sale, offering free shipping on more than 800,000 items.
Those promotions highlight industry convictions that while consumers may be a little more willing to spend this season, they will be highly price-focused.
"Consumers' perception of the economy is that it's one piece of good news followed by one piece of bad," says Erickson, "and that's making them cautious. And so while our survey finds that 62% of people plan to spend the same or more -- an 11-point increase -- people are clearly very price-conscious. Even though they say they are going to spend more, they are trying to stretch every dollar."
Many shoppers were surprisingly upbeat about their own finances, with 66% saying their household financial situation is the same or better than last year, a 10 percentage point rise from 2009.
Another surprise, he says, is just how firmly mobile and online channels have taken hold on the holiday shopping process, with 72% saying online research will influence what they buy. One example, he says, is that of the 17% who plan to use their smartphones in the holiday shopping process, 56% of them will do so to compare prices, up from 45% in 2009.
And for the seventh year in a row, gift cards came in No. 1 as the item shoppers are most likely to buy.