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Will 'Christmas Creep' Gobble Up Thanksgiving?

As you’re buying the green beans and turkey this Thanksgiving, you might want to consider a few added incentives.

That’s because Thanksgiving has competition — Christmas Creep. That’s the growing trend for stores to get the jump on Christmas sales by putting out the tinsel and offering deals, on or even before Turkey Day.

Courtney Hunter and Amanda Black out for a little early Christmas shopping at Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Courtney Hunter and Amanda Black out for a little early Christmas shopping at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

Kristian Foden-Vencil talked to a few shoppers in downtown Portland and found that many people aren’t even waiting for Thanksgiving to shop for Christmas.

Kristian: “I’m in Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square and I’m next to the Starbucks which has got baubles in the windows, plastic presents and Christmas music playing and it’s still several days before Thanksgiving. Macy’s also has some baubles outside its door. I’m just going to find out what shoppers think about Christmas before Thanksgiving.”

Amanda Black: “I do my shopping early.”

Amanda Black is a dental hygienist. She’s out with her son, helping a friend do her Christmas shopping at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square.

“I walked into Target the other day and they had Merry Christmas and Fah, La, La, La, Lah everywhere and I was thinking, ‘Well, it hasn’t even been Thanksgiving and we’re skipping holidays,’ so that bothers me. But I do shopping year round for the Christmas season whenever I find what I’m looking for,” Black says.

And she isn’t the only person to have noticed that Christmas appears to be swallowing Thanksgiving.

Sarah Wilson is out shopping with a couple of friends.

“I love Christmas, But I get a little overwhelmed when I haven’t even done Thanksgiving yet. Thanksgiving is a forgotten holiday.”

Retired engineer George Katz, is out with his family. He prefers it when retailers wait to plug Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But he doesn’t mind — mainly because he does his shopping online now.

“I don’t drive anymore. So it makes it easy.”

Greg Kiner is also out shopping — but not for Christmas.

“I’ve always been the kind of guy that shops the day before Christmas, so I don’t do a lot of the pre-shopping. Black Friday to me is just an excuse to stay in actually. And I love what Nordstrom’s is doing. They’re not doing anything with their windows until after Thanksgiving. Which they did last year too, which is fantastic.”

Kristian: “Some people have said to me. ‘You know, I don’t really like it, but when I walk into the shop, I see the decorations and I think, ahh, I’ve got to do the shopping so I might as well do it.’ Does that happen to you?”

Greg Kiner: “Yeah, I end up buying things that I think I’m buying for myself. I go shopping for myself but then I see the decorations and I think, who could I give that to. Because it’s all around you. You can’t avoid it.”

Marshal Cohen is the chief retail analyst of market research firm, the NPG Group. He says Target, for example, will kick off it’s sale at 9 o’clock Thursday evening to get a jump on the competition. “This year, I’m not calling it Christmas Creep. I’m calling it Christmas Crush.”

“What they’re doing is trying to beat each other to the punch, to get that earlier consumer dollar, a full wallet of consumer spending power, you might say, as well as trying to compete against on-line retailers who traditionally have had Thanksgiving Day when retailers were closed. Online had it all to themselves. Well retailers are saying, ‘Well no more, we want to compete with them as well.’ “

Cohen says it’s hard to overestimate the importance of Black Friday for retailers. It’s dramatically bigger than Cyber Monday, mainly because it’s really Black Friday, Black Saturday and Black Sunday.

And Cohen says, from a retail perspective Thanksgiving is just a lost opportunity.

“Thanksgiving is all about prepping the meal. And it’s a lot of work. And what retailers want you to think is, ‘Forget the Thanksgiving dinner, the work behind it, think about the shopping part of it. The reward of all the holiday spirit. The gift of giving and the gift of getting.’ “

That said, with the national unemployment rate close to eight percent, Cohen says retailers are expecting marginal revenue growth at best this holiday season.

Still, it appears Christmas Creep has a little competition this year. 

Hundreds of retailers have banded together around the nation to promote ‘Free Shipping Day.’ Spokeswoman Kendal Perez says it’s on Monday December 17th and whatever you buy online from participating retailers that day, will be delivered for free — and by Christmas Day.

“We’re aiming at the online shoppers, but specifically the procrastinators out there. We really saw that Cyber Monday and Black Friday those are big shopping holidays. But they’re really for the early birds. You know, they don’t go into December yet. And there’s been several studies that show most people need to finish up their holiday shopping in December and so we thought, ‘Why not have this holiday where people can still get deals and discounts closer to Christmas?’ And that’s kind of how Free Shipping Day came to be.”

You could partake of ‘Small Business Saturday’ instead. That’s when you buy your presents from small local businesses, instead of national chains.

And finally, says Rich Harwood of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, you could also choose to forgo the consumer Christmas thing altogether.

“One of the things we need to protect in our society are rituals that we have that take us away from consumption, take us away from instant gratification, and in essence remind ourselves that there are higher callings than simply spending money.”

Harwood says if the consumerism of Christmas gets too much, you could also focus on volunteering for a charity or helping a neighbor instead.

Back at Portland’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, shopper Courtney Hunter says “Christmas Creep” is fine with her. When it comes to Christmas shopping, the earlier the better as far as she’s concerned.

“I don’t think it’s too soon to Christmas shop, no.”

Hunter is an opthalmic technician and a mum. She’s out Christmas shopping with her son and a friend.

“I just like to get it over with so it’s done and it’s not so crazy when everybody else is shopping.”

Kristian: “How about, well, some people say you should wait until after Thanksgiving.”

“I don’t agree. I don’t care if the stores wait for their holiday stuff until after Thanksgiving. But I think that’s kind of early. But for my shopping I’d rather get it done in July than now.”

She may be right from a personal spending point of view too — it’s probably better to spread the cost of the holidays out over the whole year, rather than punish the plastic in December. 

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