I have to admit, when I read the Harvard Business Review’s recommendation that retailers give up the holiday shopping season, I was a little taken aback. The holiday shopping season is critical to retail – the National Retail Federation reports it can account for as much as 30% of a retailer’s annual revenue – so why in the world would we give up holiday promotions, discounts and sales?
HBR has one good reason: holiday promotions just aren’t working anymore. All of the special things retailers used to do to promote sales, including free shipping and ‘bonus’ gift cards with purchase, are now expectations year round. Many shoppers find the in-store shopping experience less than ideal during the holidays, especially when poorly-trained temp staff can’t provide the expected level of customer service. Compare this to the comfort and convenience of shopping on your phone while snuggled in bed – something 43% of US shoppers like to do, according to BigCommerce.
So that’s interesting. The other argument HBR brings to the table is one that I find a lot more compelling: if we stop focusing so heavily on the holiday season, could retailers increase overall annual sales? Millennials in particular will buy things for themselves as well as others during the holiday shopping season; with that in mind, HBR argues, shouldn’t we be encouraging gift giving year round?
There’s some wisdom there. There are other gift giving holidays – Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day top the list – but who says gift giving happens only on holidays? Babies are born every day of the year, and it’s never a bad day to make the special people in your life feel appreciated. Ramping back holiday marketing efforts is a little easier to contemplate if there’s increased outreach during the rest of the year.
Few things in life are all-or-nothing choices, and that may very well be the case here. The 2017 holiday season is upon us, which means promotional decisions have already been made. But in January, everything starts fresh. During your planning process, think about what times of the year might benefit from a little of the energy and excitement you bring to the holiday season. It’s one case where it certainly can’t hurt to try.