There’s nothing like an impending heatwave to remind you to stock up on summertime essentials like bottled water, portable fans, and… Christmas tree ornaments?
While a $110 figurine of Santa doing yoga might not seem like a seasonally appropriate summer purchase, that didn’t stop British luxury retailer Selfridges from becoming, as it proclaimed on Monday, “the first department store in the world to launch its Christmas Shop, 149 days before Christmas Day.”
The holiday calendar creep has left some British consumers asking the question: “Why?”
While consumers may have blocked the previous years’ early Yuletide marketing push from their collective memories, Selfridges told Fortune via email that it has opened its Christmas shop in the summer for more than 15 years—though this year’s July 29 opening is its earliest to date. (In 2018, it opened 145 days before Christmas.)
So how early will Christmas begin at U.S. retailers?
Although Bob Phibbs, CEO of New York-based consultancy The Retail Doctor thinks its premature for brick-and-mortar stores to deck the aisles with tinsel before wrapping up back-to-school shopping—“my personal buzzkill is going to Lowe’s in August and seeing they already put the snow blowers out”—that doesn’t mean that retailers haven’t already gotten in the Christmas spirit.
“I saw Little Debbie’s Christmas Cakes with ‘Christmas in July’ printed on the box in my local grocery store the other day,” he said.
Little Debbie, which did not reply to Fortune’s request for comment, received mixed reviews on social media for this endeavor.
American companies like Home Depot and QVC aren’t strangers to summertime Christmas marketing either, although they tend to focus on Christmas in July sales rather than launching the holiday during the summer and running with it through the rest of the year.
“I believe there are diminishing returns to starting [Christmas marketing] too early,” Forrester Research VP and principal analyst Sucharita Kodali told Fortune, noting that retailers risk cannibalizing themselves. “Some shoppers are done [with holiday shopping] in October, but that figure isn’t growing. Most people just aren’t planners who shop that far ahead.”
“Black Friday used to be the start of the [U.S.] holiday shopping season,” Kodali said, “but now most begin in early November.” She has also seen retailers beginning their push in September and October.
Target launched a winter holiday-themed ad in October 2012, which market research and data analytics firm YouGov attributed to its increased brand perception among mothers. Kmart aired its first Christmas commercial of 2014 in September and in 2015, Walmart pushed the opening of its holiday layaway program from September to August.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for Christmas items before the fall. According to a spokesperson from the National Retail Federation (NRF), in 2018, 11.7% of polled consumers who plan to do Christmas shopping begin making their purchases before September. The NRF’s data found that 6.7% of consumers planned to do at least some of their Christmas shopping in September and 21.3% would shop for the holiday it in October.
That’s why Phibbs advises his clients to begin displayingtheir holiday goods before Halloween—although not necessarily in the front of the store, and not necessarily at a discount.
“People are buying Christmas stuff all year long, so what you’re doing is pulling that demand forward,” he said. “And if you only sell 10% of the merchandise, I see that as a good thing because it’s 10% less than you’ll have [left over] at the end of the year.”
Phibbs said that those early sales are particularly useful to brick-and-mortar stores when the holidays are met with bad weather because, “people’s demand for Christmas decorations is still there, they just won’t buy it from you and will order online instead.”
An idea that gives brick-and-mortar stores the winter shivers.