Are you killing your customers with Christmas?

3 Nov

Jim Carrey as Scrooge

Successful brands focus on customer experience.

Anyone who has ever shopped the day after Halloween (and sometimes before, egads) knows that this cool logic goes out the window for two months every year.

In the pre-Christmas panic to make the numbers, many retailers foist Christmas on their customers in a very undignified, and un-seasonal, manner several months before the holiday.

Which brings us to Shoppers Drug Mart.

As a customer, I can tell you that hearing Christmas carols piping through store speakers on November 1st is a profoundly grating experience that turns me into the ultimate Scrooge. I have ranted about this in the past (albeit it in rhyming couplets!).

Lo and behold, other Shoppers customers agree. Thousands of them, according to their Facebook page.

Which is why Shoppers has bowed to public pressure and killed Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas until later in the year. Bravo.

Even though I enjoy, in a sporting way, shouting “Merry Christmas!” to the cashiers as I enter and leave in early November, my sense of the season is always somewhat diminished.

The Brand Interventionist Recommends

Listening to your customers when they speak to you. This exercise alone should be screaming ROI OF SOCIAL MEDIA to Shoppers – and any other retail business that is paying attention.

Be proactive in asking for your customers’ opinions. Don’t sit back and wait to hear they hate something you’re doing. Use your social channels to seek regular feedback. Thar’s gold in them thar comments! (According to Shoppers, they had “no idea” Christmas music was an issue for their customers two months in advance of the holiday. You are right to ask how the effin hell that’s possible.)

To find out the appropriate time to baste their customers with Christmas, retail stores should put a up poll like this one on their Facebook pages. They get great intel, which they can use to improve customer experience, and they show they care about that. Boom.



14 Responses to “Are you killing your customers with Christmas?”

  1. iamkarenw November 3, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    It’s a shame when retailers wear-out Christmas shoppers with music and decorations before Thanksgiving is over. 🙂

    • Doug Brown November 3, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      It reeks of desperation too. I don’t buy that Shoppers didn’t realize their customers hated it so much: they just didn’t want to hear it until the message became impossible to ignore, because it was so public. Thanks for the comment Karen!

  2. Amy November 3, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Even for someone who only begrudgingly tolerates Christmas, I would not be offended to hear Christmas music starting on Dec 1st. I wouldn’t be pleased, but also not offended.
    And, yeah, how could any retailer not know that there is a backlash against Christmas advertising two months before the holiday? That sounds like willful ignorance.

    • Doug Brown November 3, 2012 at 9:19 am #

      Amy, it’s amazing and depressing to see how our four seasons have become five seasons, driven by hungry retail stores. Two months to me is a season – in fact, in Canada it’s almost two seasons – spring and summer! 😉

  3. Yukari Peerless November 3, 2012 at 11:52 am #

    Shoppers had “No idea”? Come on. I voted for Dec 1.

    • Doug Brown November 3, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      I suppose I can handle 3 weeks of the Christmas season. I don’t see the Chinese tucking into New Year’s or the Moslems going all gung-ho for Ramadan a month in advance though. Still seems too long for me. But baby steps..

  4. hotelgoddess November 3, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    I want to bring the Christ back in Christmas. Shameful exploitation of Christmas to drive sales. What about families, love, joy and sharing with others? Save your money and give it to someone who needs it more.

    • Doug Brown November 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm #

      You know Angela, it does seem that Big Business is starting to pay attention. Occupy struck a chord, and the messages of the environmentalists are getting through. We can’t sustain the material overkill of Christmas. A return to values is overdue IMO, driven by these imperatives if not the purely spiritual nature of the holiday.

  5. Murray Kirk November 3, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    Great topic Doug, i tweeted a photo of a christmas tree in my local Starbucks on November 1 and I got only 1 response, asking if the holiday lattes are out yet. Im guessing that many people are just numb from the 365 day assault, the Christmas season being merely an increase in volume of the same old song. Thank heavens for people like yourself who at least endeavour to change up the melody.

    • Doug Brown November 4, 2012 at 4:28 am #

      Well, me and 7,163 other Facebook Shoppers fans who supported the retailer’s decision. Thanks for the comment Murray – and Merry Christmas. I didn’t say that.

  6. @footbutterguy November 4, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    I think this is only part of the story. Working in retail we have many customers wanting Christmas stuff earlier than November even – that being said most do not want Christmas music until after Remembrance Day. While only anecdotal, we get more people asking for Christmas stuff than we get complaints for having Christmas items in November.

    Furthermore, the poll showing people wanting Christmas music Dec 1 is believable but it is a false analogy. That does not necessarily mean that people don’t want Christmas goodies before then. Indeed, the number one complaint from people in December is that the malls and stores are too crowded, which is precisely why many people like to shop for stuff in October and November. But the refrain to have Christmas only after Halloween or Remembrance Day is heard often. (Thanksgiving is not a holiday in November in Canada.)

    Whilst we may not be in the “Christmas Spirit” here in temperate Victoria, we see a much different effect in geographical areas where it is snowing in October and November. Christmas related sales take off in those areas when it starts snowing – in Victoria, we are still raking leaves and cutting the lawn so Christmas is certainly not on most people’s mind, certainly not mine.

    Finally, it isn’t simply a function of retailers. Often their leases stipulate when Christmas hours start, when malls are decorated. In order to pay the rents associated with Nov and Dec and indeed the whole year in which a 2 month Christmas has been priced in by the landlord, they are forced to start early. And, while not known by the general public, a lot of brands out there are essentially “Christmas Brands) where they make 40+% of their revenues at Christmas, allowing them to keep their doors open the rest of the year.

    I put the onus on the consumer. If the average consumer is so against this and we are indeed not just hearing from a vocal minority, then they will stay away from the malls and stores in November. Yes stats show that November is becoming a more important month as the season is stretched out. That’s the consumer voting with their pocket book, regardless of what is coming out of their mouth – similar to the very same phenomenon where people complain about taxes and in the same breath complain that the government isn’t fixing the potholes fast enough.

    I suspect that the push from Shoppers and Nordstroms ( is more of a fad than a trend. I could be wrong. I wouldn’t be unhappy if I was.


    • Doug Brown November 4, 2012 at 4:45 am #

      Scott, it’s tremendous to have the retailer’s perspective represented in this post! I sincerely appreciate you giving of your time to make it. Hearing about the external and internal pressures that lead to the early presentation of Christmas in the stores casts a different quality of light on the topic. Evidently, the retailer feels a ton of pressure.

      On the evidence, the people who like early November Christmas decorations and music are a silent bunch. I have heard little in support of the 8 week festive season. The poll on this blog functions more as an indicator than a quantitative research. Nonetheless there are no votes out of 35 for November 1st. Whatever the forces driving the retailers to start that early, it’s useful to bear in mind – as your comment on the previous post so neatly skewered – that retailers embrace outside events at their peril: many consumers deride opportunism in this context.

      I am left thinking that it’s all about a sensible middle ground. There can be the specials that the early bird customer craves, combined with a sensible in-store launch of the season at a time that customers indicate they prefer. This is where knowing your customer base, and communicating with them via opt-in channels is highly useful. Imagine if your database segmented by Christmas preference, and you emailed your early birds with exclusive in-store value-adds not yet visibly available to the general public. Win/win.

      Thanks so much for the comment Scott! Wishing your store the best in the ramp up to the year-end. I’ll be in to shop!

  7. hitgirl November 4, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Great post Doug and an excellent and thoughtful reply from Scott! Here’s my two cents:

    This year, I bought my first Christmas present in July. I’ve started buying presents when I meet an item that I think would be perfect for so-and-so. It takes the pressure off any urgent shopping and I know when I see it that I’ve got a great gift.

    Though I may be buying Christmas gifts in July, I really don’t want to hear or see anything about Christmas until December. Part of the reason I shop early is so I can really enjoy the season without having to go to the mall.

    • Doug Brown November 5, 2012 at 4:36 am #

      There’s that data-base marketing angle again Sandy. Hit up your early Christmas shoppers with special offers, but keep it all under the radar. They can still get in and get it done before the Christmas Shopping Mongol Hordes swoop down on the malls in their SUVs and invade…plus avoid the canned Jingle Bells altogether!

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