Mince pies in September, advent calendars in October… shops may be struggling but do we need Christmas reminders up to three months early? Or does it just seem earlier than usual thanks to our Indian summer?
Popping in to my local supermarket at the sweltering end of September, I spotted my first mince pie display.
It may have been 28 degrees outside, but the shop managers clearly had their minds on dark nights, roaring fires, snowy landscapes and tinsel.
At the start of another sunny and warm day today, I sat through an advert for a Playmobil advent calendar. Is it me, or has Christmas arrived even earlier than normal this year?
Too much riding on Christmas
The complaint that Christmas promotions start earlier each year is a familiar one. But this year it does seem to have jumped forward yet again – and I don’t think it’s an illusion created by the fact that the warm weather has stayed later than normal.
Retailers have a huge amount resting on the Christmas 2011. Consumer spending has been slowing through the year and consumer confidence remains close to its all-time low of 2008.
The meagre pickings through the year prompted shops to push forward their Christmas promotions to the end of September, in the hope of making up for a thin year. But just as they did, the September heatwave kicked in, meaning shoppers deserted the high street to grab a few final days of sun.
The mince pies, advent calendars and Christmas puddings were ignored, along with the autumn clothing ranges, in favour of beaches and parks. Like-for-like sales were down 4% last month, according to accountancy group BDO.
When do you start thinking about Christmas?
It means retailers are under even more pressure to make Christmas – which they rely on for up to 75% of their profits – pay. But retail experts are predicting that consumers will delay their spending in the hope that they’ll get a better price as they get closer to the big day.
So after an early start, we can expect the Christmas hard sell to step up a notch over the coming weeks. Will you be spending early? Or leave your festive buying to the last minute?
And what’s the earliest you’ve ever seen a Christmas promotion in a shop? Did it tempt you to buy early?