It’s already been a couple of weeks since CNBC encouraged consumers to get started on their gift shopping for 2021. “Your holiday shopping experience is likely to look different than years past,” they cautioned. “Between issues with supply chains, rising cost of goods, staffing shortages and problems filling shelves with merchandise, retailers are gearing up for a difficult few months ahead.”

On a positive note, they say that “Demand for holiday-related gifts and items is looking to be as high as ever.”  After the pandemic put a Grinch-like grip on the holidays in 2020, that’s good news – if we are able to handle the demand despite the all-too-real challenges that CNBC mentions.

Encouraging customers to shop early is a great way to spread out the holiday season, which usually starts after Thanksgiving and grows to a frenzy the week before Christmas.  Getting some of the holiday tasks out of the way early should also help our customers relax and enjoy the season. But how can we change traditional behavior?

It turns out that starting holiday shopping after Thanksgiving is not a sacred concept. As early as the 1980s, the term “Christmas creep” was introduced to describe putting seasonal merchandise on display before Black Friday.  Since many stores had already taken delivery of the goods, it made sense to get a jump on trying to sell it – and we know that Thanksgiving merchandise doesn’t take up much space.

While some consumers grumble at the sight of Christmas-themed goods on display early, others are willing to get a head start on the season – especially if there is some incentive to do so.  Promote the fact that your shop has a relaxed and welcoming environment during November, with trained sales associates willing to provide expert service.  If you use a rewards system, you could offer extra points for early purchases. Offer free, or low cost, gift wrapping – and don’t forget to offer to label the packages to avoid confusion on Christmas morning.

Even those who are not usually eager to shop early should be made aware of the special reasons to do so in 2021. You might want to highlight some of the points in this recent USA Today article entitled Three reasons to start holiday shopping today in your social media and email blasts. (You are also welcome to use the graphic that accompanies today’s blog.) Customers need to be reminded that in addition to a better selection and more personalized attention, early birds will avoid the crowds that are of special concern this year as COVID continues to threaten our wellbeing.  

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder