The Opposite Of Christmas Creep: Christmas Retreat

Around the 12th of December, Jasper in northern Virginia needed some lights to finish decorating his Christmas tree. He drove to store after store in search of a simple string of indoor lights, but could find none. I suppose that’s what happens when stores start putting Christmas decorations out long before Halloween.

He writes:

I bought a bigger X-mas tree this year than last year, so I needed
more lights. No problem, I thought, stores will be stocked up
maximally. X-mas creep has been worse than ever, so I went to Target.
Sorry, only outdoor lighting left – on 30% sale. Onto Lowe’s. Nothing
left. Home Depot. Only tacky outdoor stuff. Tried another home depot
later in the day. Nothing either. What was left was 30% off. Home
Depot guy told me he’d been sending folks over to the adjacent Giant
supermarket for weeks. He also had heard that they were out by
now.

This is insane. Not only does X-mas creep move the start of sales
forward. Apparently, it also moves the end of sales forward! In a
couple of years we’ll be buying X-mas stuff in Summer. Does anyone
feel like some Easter eggs yet?

All stores visited were in Woodbridge and Chantilly, VA.

Oh, we’re sure there’s a store somewhere getting its Easter candy ready for the shelves right now.

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. ssm316 says:

    A Krogers here in Columbus already has easter candy out. I can confirm my Wal-Mart has already taken down their lights.

    • flyingember says:

      Manufacturing cut back a ton this year. There’s less extra to sell as well.

    • frodoUnderhill says:

      Easter?? What happened to Valentines Day and St Patrick’s Day?

      On that note, I am feeling less and less crazy for wanting to be a hermit and never leave my house again.

    • frodoUnderhill says:

      Easter?? What happened to Valentines Day and St Patrick’s Day?

      On that note, I am feeling less and less crazy for wanting to be a hermit and never leave my house again.

    • Veridian Dynamics says:

      Wow, which Kroger is that? That’s worthy of taking a picture of as it sits next to the Christmas candy.

  2. Murph1908 says:

    It’s the same as clothing. Try to buy a swimming suit in August. Or like me in college, I came back from Christmas break to some cold January weather. I couldn’t find gloves, earmuffs, or hats on January 6. If I wanted shorts and sandals, I was set.

    • ngoandy says:

      Yeah.

      I’ve had the same experience. It doesn’t usually get that cold until January. The damn stores are already displaying summer stuff by then. Who buys shorts when there is snow outside?

      • NewsMuncher says:

        This phenomenon always confused me. I’ve moved around a lot, to different regions, and thought maybe it was because corporate headquarters were further north/south (Alaska? Australia?) or something, when people might need scarves in October or something. Or maybe people thought it was hotter/colder there and I needed a few more months to acclimate to the clothes the people around me weren’t actually wearing that was on sale in the stores…

        • tape says:

          this doesn’t explain why Target (HQ in Minneapolis) now stops selling cold-weather gear in early January, when it is most necessary.

    • ngoandy says:

      Yeah.

      I’ve had the same experience. It doesn’t usually get that cold until January. The damn stores are already displaying summer stuff by then. Who buys shorts when there is snow outside?

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I procrastinated, and didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a swimsuit, so I waited…and waited…and by August (when it was still 90 degrees outside) when I finally showed up at the mall to get a swimsuit…winter coats, everywhere! Though it worked out in my favor. I was able to get the swimsuit I had originally wanted, but couldn’t bring myself to spend $40 on. Target clearance FTW!

    • Harry Manback says:

      And apparently people don’t need cheap sunglasses in the winter. The only sunglasses I can find at the local mall are from the Sunglass Hut, and I’m not looking to spend $150 on sunglasses right now (and I won’t buy sunglasses from Walmart).

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      I am going to start a department store and call it “Seasons” or something and I will sell stuff IN ITS PROPER SEASON or a maximum of a season ahead (but with small stock). In contrast to prevailing corporate wisdom, when everyone else clears out their Xmas lights (having marked them all down on November 1), I will start marking mine up Dec. 1 when people start to NEED them.

      I’ll make a killing by charging double for bathing suits in August and Christmas lights in December and candy on February 14!

    • Ubik2501 says:

      Good lord, THIS. Last year I needed new winter boots in January when my old ones wore out (and I mean an entire sole peeled off of one of them), and I had to go to eight different stores before I found one place that had an acceptable pair on my size. The retailers and the wholesalers that supply them need to start planning for when consumers actually freaking need and demand things.

  3. OletheaEurystheus says:

    Most of the Targets I have been to have most of their decoration shelves already starting to look barren.

    I think stores fearful in a bad economy decided to just not put out nearly as much stuff this year.

    • winshape says:

      Which then contributes to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they don’t get enough to sell, then people aren’t going to be able to buy.

      • ARP says:

        Yes, but I’m sure they’ve done the calculation that it’s better to sell 50 sets of lights at full (or slightly discounte) prices and run out, rather than paying for 100 sets of lights and having to sell most of them at a heavy discount after the season (especially when you add in shipping and stocking costs, and that the shelf space could be used for other items).

    • frari489 says:

      yes, it may have more to do with the stores not getting a lot of stuff in due to the economic climate than anything else.

    • Naame says:

      You might be right but if they were fearful of the economy then why did they continue to stock their shelves so early in the year?

  4. TailsToo says:

    Stores are finding it better to run out than have to mark down after the holidays, I guess. (or maybe the propaganda from wall street is true, and people are spending much more than expected so far in the holiday season)

    • jgarfink says:

      Yep – I used to work at Michaels. I started a little after Christmas, and they ended up having to mark a bunch of stuff 90% off just to get rid of it. The goal is to sell all the holiday stuff before the holiday itself, so the company doesn’t take a loss.

    • Outrun1986 says:

      Yeah they don’t care if you get the stuff or not, they just care if they sell it all to make a profit. Its the same with toy manufacturers, if they have a sellout, that is a good thing because that means they exceeded their expectations, they don’t care that all the kids won’t get one because the supply is way too low. These companies are in it for business and nothing more. Sometimes they intentionally create a low supply so that the stuff will sell out and they are not left with a bunch of overstock that will not sell which in some cases is a smart idea.

  5. Pibbs says:

    I just put up my Christmas lights this past weekend. Went to Lowes, and couldn’t find barely anything I needed. All the price signs for Christmas items showed “Clearance”. Looks like everyone is trying to clear the shelves earlier rather than later this year.

    • Difdi says:

      This happened to me too. I asked one of the supervisors why they were out of stock in mid-November. Apparently, they get their Christmas light shipment (the only one) in September, and are usually sold out by October.

  6. ctyankee says:

    I have had the same problem. No lights to be found at my Target except for sincle colors.

  7. Strausy says:

    Lowe’s in my neighborhood was out of Christmas lights on November 29th. What an amazing lack of common sense.

    • Scoobatz says:

      The Lowe’s in our area has already removed almost all Christmas items and stocked shelf space with plastic containers. While I don’t like Christmas creep, I have a harder time with stores treating the holiday like it’s over already — and, yet, it’s still a week away.

    • coren says:

      Or smart financial planning. Selling 100 units at a pr ofit is better than selling 200 units, half at a profit, half at a loss because they had to clearance them after Christmas

  8. RandomHookup says:

    Dude, Valentine’s Day…gotta move the Xmas candy out to make way for heart-shaped treats.

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      Jo-Ann fabric has all their christmas stuff 60% off and has moved much of it to make room for valentine’s day goods.

  9. kaceetheconsumer says:

    Yup…I sent a note to you guys last week about that. I started setting up the tree with my 4 year old and discovered that my one remaining string of regular bulbs wasn’t working, and I need that to plug in the Star Trek ornaments and the angel tree topper, so we popped out to Target and they were almost out of lights. They had some outdoor icicle style ones, and tons of purple lights for indoors. Why purple? Because nobody wants purple! Other people were muttering and grumbling about it too.

    So good on me for having bought my LED strings during Christmas creep starting in September because otherwise, there’d be no lights on our tree, except the purple string I had to go with because damn it, I want my Bird of Prey and Enterprise to do battle.

    • theblackdog says:

      Purple lights? *races off to target*

      /Baltimore Ravens fan

      • kaceetheconsumer says:

        Okay yes, there are probably good reasons to have purple lights…I’m sure they’d be fab at halloween or easter.

        Just for Christmas when I have no sports team fandom to link to, meh, not so much.

    • Syncop8d1 says:

      Star Trek ornaments? And purple lights? That sounds awesome. (taking notes for next year)

  10. Preyfar says:

    This is similar to the Target in Reston, VA. Despite having their Christmas stuff out since early November, they apparently didn’t order a whole heck of a lot of Christmas lights/decorations (unlike last year) due to the economy. They figured people were going to be more frugal this year, and would focus on gifts -vs- “tree bling” so they didn’t order as much.

    My guesstimate is that stores sold out, and by the time it’d take for them to re-stock, it would be too close to Christmas for them to really make the sales count -vs- the cost of the goods, so stores didn’t bother.

  11. DJBS77 says:

    We can’t find any lights either here in Chicago.

  12. IndyJaws says:

    My wife works at Target and she said they were pretty much out of lights in the first week of December. We noticed Walmart was very similar. It appears that big box retailers have cut way back on (at least) light inventory this year, in order to keep from being stuck and having to dramatically discount after the holidays. Our local CVS GM has also noticed it, when we were talking to her the other day. She’s loving it, because her sales of lights have been great.

    • 339point4 says:

      I don’t get it. Lights aren’t perishable. If the store orders too many lights one year, can’t they just warehouse the leftovers until next year and charge full price again?

      • RandomHookup says:

        Warehousing costs money and most stores don’t want to store stuff on premise that won’t sell for another year. They need that space to store the Valentines crap they need to stock on Dec. 26th.

        • Kitamura says:

          Who the heck stocks valentines day crap on boxing day? A lot of stores use some point in the 2-3 weeks following Christmas to do inventory since they’ll have sold off a lot of their crap due to holiday sales, they most certainly don’t want to be stocking the next holiday until after that happens, otherwise there’s just more shit to count, but maybe that’s just my area.

          • RandomHookup says:

            Extremely common to see stores stocking V-Day stuff within the days after Xmas. They clear out Xmas stuff right away and have very little to discount. I see this in drug stores more than big box, but common all around.

            I’ll bet we have photos on Consumerist within the week of Valentine merchandise stocked on floors.

      • econobiker says:

        Stores do not have inventory space anymore as that ties up money. It is all about turning the money versus satisfying the customer. Old stock = cost in money of the product cost, handling, space in the warehouse, administration, damage during storage, change in fashion tastes or technologies, etc

        The days of Old Man Furber putting up the Christmas stock in his general store’s attic are gone. It made sense to him since the transport times/costs were much more and he had the space but modern day companies thrive on logistics and inventory turns to push volume. Old Man Furber may have sold 36 strands of lights one year but these companies may sell that much in one hour…

        Companies like Walmart often don’t own the products until the palletized items hit the tractor truck trailer and then these are quickly reshipped to stores upon being delivered to the logistics centers. Often the products are cross-docked which means the trailers delivering the products are unloaded and the products immediately re-palletized with other products and reloaded onto the store bound trailer.

        Alot of this is not about standard clockwork but clockwork on the nuclear clock level of precision. Tractor trucks no longer deliver or pick up on a certain ~day~ but within a specified certain 2- 4 hour time frame on a certain day or the trucking companies pay penalties to the purchaser or vendor.

      • Verdant Pine Trees says:

        And it’s not just an inventory space thing. What I keep in stock with my business has a tax value: that’s why some stores deeply discount all kinds of inventory at the end of the year.

    • JamieSueAustin says:

      The regular stores seem out of all Christmas stuff now. BUT, the dollar stores (Family Dollar, Dollar General) still have a pretty decent selection. And cheep too.

      • merely_a_muse says:

        I love dollar store decorations. They usually have some decent stuff, or at the very least stuff that you can take apart & re purpose and not feel bad about if you totally fuck it up cause you spent $1 on it.

        Pretty much all my Christmas decorations are from the dollar store or from last year’s Christmas super clearance sales.

  13. BoilerBob says:

    Same thing in South Florida. Need an extra string to replace some burned out bulbs. No store has anything to decorate. Target already has all trees on 50% clearance.

  14. KlausKinsky says:

    Costco is one of the worst offenders in this category.

  15. AnthonyC says:

    I wouldn’t worry about it. Soon enough Christmas creep will get to Spring, and then shortly thereafter BAM, christmas sales will happen at christmas time again.

  16. psikic says:

    What is this X-mas I keep hearing about? I thought we called it Christmas? Are you the same people who celebrate I-day on July 4th, V-day on November 11 and M-day on the last Monday in May? Maybe you prefer H-een at the end of October?

  17. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Wow, that’s pretty sad. I know that stores around here (Orlando) usually have a SMALL section of lights up until Christmas – I know Walmart always has tons still available (not always the good ones, but something) on sale after Christmas. Best time to buy!

  18. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Really? We actually had to buy a new strand of lights because half the lights on our tree stopped working. I’ve been to several Targets in the past two weeks. OP needs to try Fairfax, Alexandria, and Falls Church. I bet there are lights at those Targets – in my experience, they tend to be better stocked. There are no Targets in McLean and Tysons, though, which make me LOL cause that’s one of the region’s biggest shopping areas.

    • BartClan says:

      Concur with pecan. Went shopping this weekend in Alexandra (Wal-Mart on Highway 1) and found lots of lights. We needed a few strands of clear for the tree and found plenty. We like to shop Woodbridge and Kingstowne, but the selection is always better in Alexandria.

  19. NotYou007 says:

    I could go to any of those stores right now and find lights without a problem but then again I do live in Maine and we do not have a lot of people in Maine. We also have cheap holiday trees. Yes, I said holiday trees.

  20. evan says:

    I thought I was just going crazy when I went to five different stores and couldn’t find ANY lights for my Christmas tree. I feel somehow comforted knowing that it has become a common problem.
    After I was successful in obtaining some lights I spoke with a store manager who explained that the store just brought in a single large supply of stock in October and just put it out as it sold. I’m guessing this helps keep costs down for them and keeps them from having a mountain of product they need to offload after Christmas.

  21. Kid Awesome says:

    With logic like this it’s no wonder every retailer is running in the red.

  22. Kid Awesome says:

    With logic like this it’s no wonder every retailer is running in the red.

  23. TVGenius says:

    That’s what you all get for not buying in August when you had the chance!

  24. MJ Dick says:

    that’s ok, I was at Dollar General to get a few items on my way out to the family Independence day get together, in the beginning of JULY, and they had gotten their first shipment of Xmas items. with retailers so scared of sales, they are trying everything they can to make and clear stock ASAP and faster then everyone else.
    I’ve decided to start my own business producing and selling Y3K stuff, only have 991 years remaining, doesn’t hurt to get a jump on it.

  25. docrice says:

    What do you expect? it goes on sale in September and is already marked down by thanksgiving…

  26. Skipweasel says:

    Nah, it’s just got so early that you have to start the year before if you want a chance of getting what you want.

  27. HalOfBorg says:

    A few days ago my wife and I go to Michaels http://www.michaels.com/art/online/home to get a picture frame.

    They are busy taking down the Christmas stuff.

    Sad. Truly sad.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      Craft stores get a bit of a bye because people need a few months’ lead time to finish the craft in time for the holiday.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That makes sense though. We’re definitely approaching the holidays, and people are going to be traveling. People leaving the area aren’t going to go to Michaels for Christmas craft shopping. People coming in to see family probably aren’t going to do that, either. The store has to take down some stuff because it’s going to close early, or not even open. They have to plan ahead for when they’re running a skeleton crew and they probably don’t want a crapload of stuff to take down.

  28. mbz32190 says:

    At the Wegmans I work at, all Christmas decorations went to “discontinued/clearance” mode this past Sunday. I think my store ordered too much stuff though and is just trying to get rid of it as quick as possible.

  29. outlulz says:

    I went to Target on Monday to get Christmas lights. They had four boxes in the entire store. Next i went to Rite-Aid who had run out of white lights.

  30. randombob says:

    The thing is, if you don’t start putting the stuff out near halloween, then you miss the sales opportunities. Period. Everyone complains & complains about “Christmas Creep” every year, but to be perfectly honest, it’s not creep, it’s perfectly legitimate. Because the stores are in the business of selling the Christmas supplies, and people tend to decorate for Christmas BEFORE Christmas happens. You know, like you put up your lights & tree before December 24th? Sound familiar?

    Well… if you want to sell the lights & the tree and the decorations to the people who are going to be putting that stuff up FOR the holidays, you have to have it out and on display BEFORE the holiday, to meet their shopping needs. And to everyone who thinks that it should just magically appear the day after Thanksgiving, let’s remember Santa isn’t real, someone has to actually do all that work, and it takes longer than a day — it can take a few weeks to get in the merchandise, work it out to displays, etc etc.

    This post right here is PROOF that all the complaining about Christmas creep is bunk. they’re sold out (on December 14th!) because of all those shoppers. You know, all those people who are the reason that stores put the stuff out in November. All the people who bought their lights early so they were prepared to decorate at a decent time for the coming holidays.

    I love the site for the most part, but you complain on one hand about creep, and then turn around and complain with the other about stores being out of Christmas supplies at the bemoan of those who are shopping way late. Seems disingenuous.

  31. SecretAgentWoman says:

    First week of December, I couldn’t find Christmas garland anywhere but at one grocery store for a huge mark up. The Walmart people told me they were sold out the first week they got their Christmas shipment…and they don’t get anymore, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

  32. TheRealMarySue says:

    This is really annoying for those of us who celebrate the Christmas season in its (western) traditional place: the 12 days from December 25th to January 5th. I won’t even be putting up my tree until Christmas Eve!

  33. barb95 says:

    The Target where I lived had Valentine’s day baby clothes (bibs, onesies) and candy. VALENTINE’S DAY!

  34. pittstonjoma says:

    We have very few Christmas lights left at our store, and a lot of customers are very upset. I’m willing to bet the Valentine’s Day shipment is on tomorrow’s truck

  35. pdj79 says:

    Oh you’ll find those lights again soon…try December 26th in the Clearance section…they’ll have all sorts of lights marked down 50% until Valentine’s Day. I bank on this every year for cheap Christmas lights. Walmart is the biggest offender…they clear out the indoor section of the Lawn and Garden area and turn it into one large Christmas decoration blowout center.

  36. PhiTauBill says:

    Had the same experience here in NJ… although there may also be another reason…It seems to me that more people are getting into the Holidays this year in general (I’ve seen many more elaborate outdoor light displays on people’s houses in the area where I live)… I think the people that are still employed are pretty thankful, and are finding comfort in the types of family activities (spending time with the family trimming a tree, hanging lights, etc.) which may have produced a slight spike in demand… just my two cents…

  37. Thora says:

    I think it would be perfect for retailers to put out the Xmas stuff right around Thanksgiving. A whole month is plenty of time for people to get everything they need, without ruining the magic of the holiday. Putting decorations out in August or Sept is just ridiculous. Hell, why not just keep them out all year round?

    Valentine decorations in December is also ridiculous. I HATE Valentine’s day, I always have ever since I was a kid. It’s so stupid. It sucks for singles cause it makes them feel left out & unloved, and it sucks for people in relationships cause it puts the pressure on to buy pricey gifts to show how much you “care”.

  38. dudski says:

    In a perfect world, there’d still be a full selection of Christmas decorations for the mid-to-late-December shoppers, but the more merchandise a store has as Christmas approaches, the longer they’re going to be stuck with Christmas clearance and the more money they’re going to lose marking everything down to 90% off before the year ends. There is a very brief window of opportunity to sell that merchandise after a holiday, even at that kind of discount, and once it passes that stuff all ends up in a landfill somewhere.

  39. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    Home depot, Walmart, and Target just never stocked anywhere near as much as usual around here this year. We went to replace some yard decorations that stopped working last year and were unable.

    It wasn’t about timing, I think its just paranoia of being stuck with inventory in the poor economy. Now we won’t know if the low sales numbers are a result of the economy or poor inventory.

    My region has been only lightly affected by the downturn as well, but I guess a lot is done at the national level.

  40. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    I saw Christmas stuff in Jo-Anns last time I went by there. The OP should try craft stores if they haven’t yet. If what HalOfBorg saw was typical though then they should do it soon.

  41. SaintPeter says:

    I had a similar experience – I went to two Home Depots and finally a WalMart looking for a LED Christmas tree. We ended up having to buy the floor model at WalMart, which was the only one they had left.

  42. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    this might explain my neighbor’s holiday decorations. i was wondering how this

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/catastrophegirl/4176191437/

    happened

  43. echovictorecho says:

    The fish store I used to work at still has a Christmas wrasse! ($29.99)

  44. tape says:

    I had the same problem on December 6. you know, when Christmas was still THREE WEEKS AWAY.

    I figure I should buy an extra set of winter gloves today just in case something happens to mine in mid-January, like last year when the temperature was 8 and I couldn’t find any gloves to replace my ripped ones anywhere.

  45. Charmander says:

    In the store I work at (okay – it’s Fred Meyer, owned by Kroger) we are almost completely out of any kind of lights, indoor or outdoor. We have been out of ornament hangers and wreath hangers for over a week, and we basically sold out our inventory of Christmas cards. All we have left is trees, wreaths, and a some Christmas wrap. And some decorative Christmas items.

    It’s really insane, but I guess the lesson here is: if you see something seasonal that you like, buy it. Don’t wait until it goes on sale, or put it off. Buy it now, or you’ll be sorry.

    For the record, I believe Kroger miscalculated the amount of Christmas lights/items/decor they ordered this year, based on last year’s sales figures (we had lots of snow last year (in Seattle) and sales dropped because of it.)

  46. LordXar says:

    We went in a little late to purchase a Xmas tree from Lowes. I think it was December 11th. They were already down to about 10 trees and said they were not getting anymore. Seems a shame because there were at least 3 other families out at the same time as me looking for trees.