Festive season arrives early for some retailers

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY: A Christmas display in Spotlight Te Rapa
CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY: A Christmas display in Spotlight Te Rapa

Start decking the halls, because Christmas is already here.

Christmas displays have started to appear in shops all over Hamilton - with some setting up displays halfway through September.

Shoppers at Spotlight Te Rapa are greeted with tinsel garlands, baubles, and a sizeable display covering Christmas needs right down to reindeer antlers, while the Hamilton CBD Warehouse has a more modest display.

But members of the public and retail, religious, and marketing experts are divided on whether the early start was a good plan.

Hamilton Central Business Association general manager Sandy Turner said extending Christmas could spoil the magic.

"It tends to drag it out too long and it takes away some of that real special sparkle," she said.

"I think if it's done too early it's hard for families with young children, because it's hard enough for children to wait for Christmas anyway."

While central shops were looking forward to dressing up the city this year, said Ms Turner, they generally waited until mid-November to roll out products.

By late November and through December, everyone was "in serious Christmas shopping mode".

Festive displays had already made New Zealand Retailers' Association spokesperson Louise Evans McDonald realise it was time to start preparing.

"I can talk from a shopper's perspective - it certainly got me thinking ‘oh my goodness, there's not many days till Christmas'," she said.

She said October's change of season and stock often brought Christmas goods or pre-Christmas sales, but it depended on the type of store.

And the stores could have several reasons for rolling out the Christmas decorations early, said University of Waikato's chairperson of marketing Dr Mark Kilgour.

They could be trying to prolong the feel-good effect, but this could lead to "wear out" and the perception Christmas was being over-commercialised.

It could be a case of one-upmanship with pre-Christmas sales, or just reminding people earlier because of today's busy lifestyles.

"I also suspect that . . . sometimes the last-minute shopping isn't as feasible as maybe it was 10 years ago."

And Dean of St Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton Peter Rickman wasn't shocked by the early emergence of decorations.

"It seems to happen year after year. The same happens with Easter - Easter eggs are out in January," he said.

"There's a commercial Christmas and a spiritual one and obviously people approach those things in different ways." But he said the two didn't have to be at at loggerheads, because many activities New Zealanders liked to do at Christmas - spend time with family, celebrate together - fitted well with spiritual values.

Spotlight spokesperson Eva Daly didn't think it was too early to have festive displays as their store was "unique" because its customers tended to make Christmas gifts and decorations for their homes.

"They are looking for access to Christmas product earlier than many others. We put our Christmas stock in time to ensure that they are able to make what they need for the festive season."

She said the products were rolled out in stages "create, decorate and celebrate".

The Waikato Times went to Garden Place and asked Hamiltonians whether they were pleased to see Christmas decorations in shops so early in the year.

Megan Callaghan, Hamilton, AgResearch:

"I think it's totally inappropriate and not necessary. It's just enticing people to think about spending lots of money so early in the piece."

Michael Kihi, Hamilton, student:

"I wouldn't go buy Christmas lights and decorations early. Early November, that's when I would start buying. Never before."

Raumati Waaka, Hamilton, unemployed:

"I don't think it's a problem, really, because selling it earlier than Christmas, its cheaper. When it comes to Christmas time it's dearer."

Taylah Tomuri, Hamilton, student:

"I reckon that's all good, because people can start setting up for Christmas already."

Steve Henry, Hamilton, childcare business owner:

"That's just ridiculous. It's just a marketing ploy, really. It's just commercialism gone crazy."

Jase Te Moananui, Hamilton, storeman/truck driver:

"I haven't really thought about it ... pretty cool I suppose. Sounds good."

Waikato Times