The Pros and Cons of Having a "Christmas in July" Sale

by Liz Magill on July 20, 2011
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Forget the flip-flops, summer blockbuster movies, and high humidity — it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. After all, there are only 158 shopping days left until the big day.

“Christmas in July” sales are hardly a novel marketing tactic. In fact, they date back to 1940, when a film of the same name was released. Since then, brick and mortar retailers and e-commerce businesses have routinely launched these dog-days-of-summer holiday sales every year.

While we’re still in the midst of a lackluster economy, Christmas in July promotions may be more important than ever for small businesses as a way to bring in extra revenue early, clear out inventory, combat a summer sales slump, and compete for consumer holiday shopping dollars. On the other hand, some naysayers think it’s best to forgo this mid-summer shopping sale frenzy for a variety of practical and deep-rooted reasons.

So, should your small business join in in filling Santa’s sleigh early?  Consider the pros and cons of Christmas in July sales.

Pro: They attract farsighted consumers – Some consumers are uber-organized, and proudly claim that they have all their Christmas shopping done by the time the calendar hits September 1, if not sooner. Why not appeal to these expeditious shoppers, and help them fulfill their early holiday shopping habits?

Con: They make returning presents more difficult – For businesses that have time limitations on their return policy — like a 90 day return policy — a Christmas in July sale may not bring in customers who are leery of having their gift recipient unable to return an unwanted purchase come December or January.

Pro: They attract nearsighted consumers – We’ve all been there, waiting until the last possible minute to buy that new shirt for Uncle Fred for Christmas. For those who typically procrastinate, a Christmas in July sale may just be the catalyst these shoppers need to get them to fill their holiday shopping cart sooner, and your company’s bottom line at the same time.

Con: They create uncertainty about the latest and greatest – If you’re in the business of selling products that are updated regularly, like electronic gadgets, consumers may be cautious about opening up their purse strings early for fear of a new and improved model being released later on in the year.

Pro: They help cash-strapped consumers – Let’s face it; these days, many consumers are cash-strapped and don’t have the luxury — or the funds — to conduct all of their holiday shopping in December. Small businesses can help these recession-weary consumers stretch their holiday spending throughout the year through Christmas in July sales.

Con: They add to the number of already saturated sale promotion days – Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Back in Black Friday, Columbus Day, After Thanksgiving Day, Cyber Black Friday, Black Friday in July, Back-to-School, Green Monday, Free Shipping Day, Tax Freedom Day Sale… need we say more?

Pro: They help consumers free up their holiday leisure time – Most people would rather spend time during the holidays with family and friends, rather than inside a crowded store shopping for last-minute holiday gifts.

Con: They take away from the actual meaning of Christmas – Some argue that July is an untimely period to “celebrate” Christmas, asserting that the meaning gets lost in the commercialism… even more than usual.

What’s your take on Christmas in July sales? Are they a good thing for small businesses or just a marketing gimmick? Chime in by leaving us a comment!

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