Do brands benefit from kick-starting the Christmas season this early?

LONDON - Decking the stores with holly in September may be seen as shameless exploitation by retailers - or a thoughtful way to help cash-strapped consumers buy their festive delights in affordable stages

Yes

Gwyn Burr, customer director, Sainsbury's

 

The bottom line is that any brand will benefit from giving its customers what they want, when they want it.

So far as Christmas at Sainsbury's is concerned, that doesn't mean decking out our stores with decorations in September, but it does mean that over the next few weeks customers will be able to buy a selection of seasonal confectionery, cards and gift wrap.

We do this every year and customers do buy them. It's not hard to work out why - it's a great way for busy people to spread the workload and the cost of Christmas over time. They plan ahead - buy cards and gift wrap this week, Christmas cake next week, presents over the next few months and fresh food in December.

It's a brilliant way to budget and, as it can all be done as part of a regular grocery shop, it doesn't take up a huge amount of precious time.

Talking of food, our improved-recipe mince pies have been on sale for a few days and are flying off the shelves.

 

Maybe

Ian McLernon, commercial director, Parfums Christian Dior, UK & Ireland

The media say Christmas gets earlier every year. However, for the past two years it has seemed to get later, with the last three shopping days being the most hectic - and where the challenge is ensuring product is on the shelves.

Many international tourists start shopping for Christmas in August, magnified in London this year by the attractiveness of the pound versus the euro, so clients in key department stores bought early and stocked up.

Christmas as a season is focused on gifting, and it's true that consumers are using gifting occasions more frequently than ever. Mother's, Father's and Valentine's Days are becoming more significant, meaning that brands must have a gift offer throughout the year and not just at Christmas.

At Dior, we offer a luxury gifting service all year and can provide clients with a Christmas gift at any time.

The reality is that consumers determine when Christmas starts.

It's not retailers or brands pushing Christmas in August - it's as simple as good, old-fashioned consumer demand.

 

No

David Bainbridge, vice-chairman, MCBD

 

This Christmas there will be many hard-pressed consumers who might welcome the chance to spread out their purchases over a longer period. Brands that populate shelves with Christmas goodies earlier must be hoping their activities will be seen in the positive light of helping the family budget.

The reality, of course, is that no one loves the idea of Christmas merchand-ise and Jingle Bells on a boiling hot September day.

Most Christmas marketing is an orgy of emotional blackmail and excess that is made tolerable by waiting until the leaves have fallen from the trees. Brands that bring Christmas forward risk being perceived as crassly commercial and counter to the spirit of the very season they are trying to sell, falling over each other in a desperate land-grab for our spend.

If a brand can plausibly justify its early activity as a way of spreading the financial burden, it might just about be accepted. Without a credible reason, it can all too easily be interpreted as an invitation to spend, rather than a gesture of festive goodwill.

 

Yes

John Bernard, Global marketing manager, Sony Ericsson

 

In the nine-week trading period over November and December, 50% of total annual sales can be achieved. If this sharp increase in demand can stretch to three months, brands will benefit.

An early start also provides an opportunity to overcome the stock shortages that have been associated with the best-selling toys, gadgets and must-have presents.

It is not unusual for manufacturers to organise press days in the build-up to the festive season, and, in the mobile-phone industry, we hold 'Christmas in July' events to showcase our range of products and generate interest with the press, especially monthly magazines, with their long editorial lead times.

Just as important, given that the retail-buying process can start from three to nine months in advance, getting a promotion or window space for the 'golden quarter' can be a meticulous process, competing with other brands to get exposure in front of customers during this key period.

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