Sleigh bells ring, and Americans can’t help but listen, thanks to Kmart.
The retailer aired the first commercial of its holiday season roster on Sept. 8, promoting its famous layaway program with the voiceover, “Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you.”
The ad snuck up one month and 20 days earlier than Kmart’s first holiday promo last year. The ad reaped national criticism, with litters of condemning comments on the company’s Facebook page. The ad became the yuletide whipping boy for annoyed Americans.
But Kmart is not at fault. We are.
Last year, the National Retail Federation said 12 percent of consumers begin their holiday shopping before September; 6 percent get started in September and 20 percent start in October.
So naturally, retailers ready their displays to accommodate the eager crowds.
In August, Wal-Mart announced its free holiday layaway would begin at the beginning of September.
Toys R Us followed suit, starting Black Friday-style discounts in September and announcing a program for rewards members to earn 10 percent back on all purchases until the end of October.
From a business perspective, the persistent marketing makes sense. The companies are simply looking for ways to put cash in the customers’ and corporate wallets.
Retailers’ forward-thinking appeals to the frugal shopper. However, Kmart and its fellow preseason offenders are running the risk of killing Christmas.
The complaint is a regular rant heard around the holidays.
An online poll on NBC’s today.com showed 89 percent of the 2,122 polled believe “stores are marketing Christmas too early.”
However, by quite literally buying into retailers’ schemes, we are failing to practice what we preach.
Kmart’s actions are only a result of our own.
A TIME survey last year found that nearly a third of shoppers said Black Friday started too early, but Wal-Mart opened its doors at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving and had its most profitable Black Friday ever.
Americans have made this type of early-bird advertising socially acceptable and almost expected. We ready our wish lists and eggnog mugs before the Thanksgiving turkey plate is passed.
Kmart is calling their marketing ploy “preparation,” Toys R Us titles it “holiday spirit,” and if mistletoe has not yet been hung, you’re at risk of being named “Scrooge.”
But Kmart cannot be blamed for doing what businesses are inherently bred to do.
Keep calm, Americans, and keep the Creep out of Christmas.