Yes, Christmas creep is real. But retailers are also doubling down on Halloween, Easter, Pride Month and other occasions
Plus, they’re leaving their decorations up longer and creating increasingly elaborate displays. At big-box retailers, you might see witches in midsummer and Santa Claus before Labor Day.
Those businesses know some of you roll your eyes at the ever-expanding holiday seasons, but they say most customers clamor for them. Which is why you can probably expect decorating to become more intense — and to include even more varied holidays — in years to come.
Scott Roewer, president of the Organizing Agency, an organizing company in the D.C. area that offers decorating services, says calls for Christmas help ramped up earlier than ever this year. Typically, he says clients wait until after Thanksgiving to get in touch, but this year the requests started rolling in weeks ago. He theorizes that homeowners are seeing holiday displays go up in stores earlier and becoming inspired.
Melissa Mills, senior vice president of florals and seasonal merchandise at the craft chain Michaels, says “our customer has clearly voted” that they want holiday decor earlier. “I was getting customer service questions like ‘When are we setting Christmas?’ way back in August.”
The role of the coronavirus pandemic in accelerating the holidays has been well-documented. Because of supply chain concerns, consumers ordered decorations earlier, says Lance Allen, who oversees holiday merchandise at Home Depot, and wound up receiving them by October or early November. “They were excited about them, so they didn’t … just throw them in the attic or in the basement,” he says. “They started putting them up.”
Others just wanted a way to feel happier. “We were really wanting to feel connected and wanting to feel this sense of just relief and nostalgia,” says Jorge Barraza, a professor of consumer psychology at the University of Southern California. “And so a lot of us did break the existing norms that we had [about when to start decorating] and kind of decided, screw it. Like, why not?”
The pandemic decorating shift not only stuck around, it deepened. As Barraza explains, there’s something contagious about seeing your neighbors put their decorations up early. Many people are “looking, maybe not consciously, for signals from others, whether it be in your day-to-day life as you’re driving around,” or, increasingly, from social media, he says.
Instagram and TikTok, in particular, have become sources for establishing new social norms around decorating. They can also be major drivers of new holiday decorating trends, according to Mills.
She says Michaels has experienced weeks-long, “giant spikes” in sales for particular products after TikTokers have featured them. Take, for instance, this Christmas tree garland made to resemble a Taylor Swift friendship bracelet. After it went viral on TikTok in late October, Mills says her stores saw a run on the craft supplies required to make it.
Target similarly sold out of its giant Halloween ghoul Lewis after the eight-foot decoration became a hit on the app.
A cynic might see all this as a “keeping up with the Joneses” kind of hyper-capitalist competition, but there’s a sunnier way to view it, too. “We’re motivated to obviously feel good and happy. And decorating does bring us joy, right? Whenever we have opportunities for self-expression, it brings us joy, but it also makes us feel connected to others,” Barraza says.
The only thing that seems to be stopping Christmas from advancing its march into retailers even earlier in the calendar year is the advent of Halloween as a must-decorate holiday. Long gone are the days when a simple carved jack-o’-lantern qualified as a sufficient homage to the spooky season. Now people have infantries of 12-foot skeletons and annual haunted themes for their Halloween displays.
Mills says Michaels has moved up its introduction of Halloween items in the past two years and plans to make next year’s launch even earlier — at the beginning of July. (Makes you think the pumpkin spice latte is actually behind schedule with its August debut.)
“We saw such opportunity, honestly, in our Halloween business that we started opting for more Halloween and just held on Christmas a little bit,” Mills says, simply because there wasn’t enough floor space for both, in addition to other autumn decor and year-round merchandise.
But the trade-off isn’t ideal: “I’d love to have more Christmas space, and earlier. I think we could do more business,” Mills says.
Some items, such as trees and lights, begin to trickle in by early fall, but she says Michaels holds off going “full tilt” on Christmas until early November, in favor of the jack-o’-lantern juggernaut.
The rise of Halloween has sent some retailers scrambling to keep up with their competitors. Tractor Supply was planning to put out its spooky season wares in mid-August this year, says Jamie Martin, the chain’s vice president of clothing and gift merchandising, before noticing earlier in the summer that other stores already had theirs on display.
So the farm supply stores moved up their Halloween launch to late July, “and our customers immediately started reacting to that,” says Martin. By early September, several of their key Halloween items had sold out.
Clearly Halloween has become a full decorating season, just like Christmas. But does that mean other holidays are bound to follow suit?
“We’ve had year-over-year growth in things like Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day,” says Mills of Michaels. “Easter is a very big season for us. I call that our Halloween of the first quarter.” She also reports rising interest in rainbow decorating for Pride Month.
Roewer has gotten a call to decorate a home for Pride Month, too, and he says he just received his first Easter-decorating request.
Tractor Supply is also creating “fun Americana-themed items” for the Fourth of July, says Martin. But she declined to go into detail, because those “things are top secret right now.”