Target starts holiday ads well before Halloween
Sandra Guy/Chicago Sun-Times
With Target Corp. rolling out its earliest-ever TV holiday ad, is Santa Claus already on his way?
The Minneapolis-based retailer, known for cheap-chic goods and an iconic bull’s eye and dog mascot, aired its first holiday ad Monday — which Advertising Age reported was three weeks earlier than the traditional November kickoff and six weeks before Thanksgiving.
Target declined comment.
Two retail experts said Tuesday that uncertainty in the economy and on the nation’s political stage poses a worrisome situation for retailers.
Many spending forecasts are predicting retail spending will grow 3 to 5 percent from a year ago, but not by everyone. The most recent BIGInsight shopper survey showed about one-third of shoppers planning to spend less this holiday than last year.
Kim Finnerty, vice president of consumer and shopper insights for Chicago-based HMI’s Ryan Partnership, said retailers cannot afford to ignore an opportunity to seize shoppers’ attention early.
“The best way for a retailer to ensure it gets its fair share of holiday purchases is to get people thinking about the holiday as early as possible,” Finnerty said. “This is the time to start thinking about layaways, and we’ve already seen layaway announcements.”
Sears, Kmart and Toys R Us have announced no fees on layaway for limited time periods, for example.
On Tuesday, Target announced that it will match Amazon’s holiday prices.
The effort is aimed at preventing “showrooming,” in which shoppers use their smartphones and tablet computers to check prices inside Target stores, and then order the same products at cheaper prices at online merchants.
Though shoppers posted angry responses to Target’s early TV ad on Twitter and Facebook, one expert said many shoppers may welcome the ads this year as a way to escape “one politician bashing another politician” in seemingly non-stop election campaign ads.
Among the online comments were, “Dear Target, It’s too early for Christmas ads Please let us enjoy one holiday at a time. Thank you,” and “It’s not even Halloween!! There is a time and a place for everything, and Christmas in October is not one of them.”
But Jeff Green, president of Jeff Green Partners retail consultancy in Phoenix, said consumers are tiring of political ads and have turned away from even trying to understand the upcoming “fiscal cliff” in January. That’s when Congress must enact a budget plan or risk spending cuts and tax increases large enough to throw the economy back into recession.
“I think early retail holiday ads will be welcome,” he said.
Holiday specials already are being leaked for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when retailers see the red ink on their books turn a profit, or go into the black.
Green believes retail spending this holiday will be up 3 percent to 5 percent from last year — in line with many forecasters’ outlooks.
Green said retailers may not feel forced to up the advertising ante with Target because back-to-school sales looked strong.
Will other retailers follow Target’s lead?
Spokespeople for Macy’s didn’t comment and Sears, Gap and H&M declined comment.