For the second year in a row, Kmart is the first major retailer to begin campaigning for the holidays. Yes, Christmas is 86 days away, and it was 81 degrees in New York City yesterday.
In its aptly named “Ridiculous” holiday campaign, released at the beginning of September, wreaths and string lights twinkle in the background as Kmart associate “Kmart Kelly” explains that while thinking about the holidays already may be ridiculous (wink), two payment programs — layaways and leasing — will help shoppers budget smartly for the season.
“We want to help our members manage budgets, especially for Christmas toys,” said Kmart’s vp of communications, Jamie Stein.
Some might not want to see holiday ads popping up during commercial breaks until at least after the Halloween candy has been handed out. But global marketing company Epsilon’s vp of retail business development, Jean-Yves Sabot, said the Kmart approach works because it targets a very specific type of shopper.
Basically, Kmart may field angry YouTube comments from the masses (“You’re what’s wrong with America,” reads one irate scrooge), but that doesn’t matter as long as they’re reaching the Kmart consumers who are both thinking about holiday shopping and looking to budget over a few months. You might not want to think about the holidays when it’s only been fall for a week, but the typical Kmart shopper is ready to go for holiday shopping.
“Retailers should follow the trends of when people are spending,” said Sabot. “If the retailer understands who their consumers are, it’s going to help them engage the customer throughout the year, which is better than taking the approach of the obvious holiday theme.”
A study conducted by Epsilon in June surveyed 3,000 consumers age 25 and over to find out when people are shopping for the holidays. It found that 18 percent had begun shopping for the holidays by the beginning of June 1, 56 percent planned to shop in October and November, and 74 percent planned to shop in September, October and November.
The National Retail Federation found that in 2014, 40 percent of consumers surveyed shopped in September and October, before Halloween.
“It’s the same thought process behind opening on Thanksgiving – if there’s enough demand, retailers would be crazy not to provide what they know their own shoppers want,” said Kathy Grannis Allen, senior director of public relations for NRF. “Of course, the ‘holidays’ are not one-size-fits-all, and plenty of retailers know their shoppers aren’t early-bird types and will begin their promos accordingly.”
According to Stein, Kmart’s customers not only wants to plan their budgets early and spread out spending, they also want to ensure they’ll be able to snag the season’s hottest items, including top toys, which are a major area of focus for the retailer. According to parent company Sears, Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings report last year, toys were among Kmart’s best-selling items, along with apparel and jewelry.
“We realize that it’s early — it’s ridiculously early,” said Stein. “But it’s good to think ahead, and we have fun with it. Plus, why we’re talking about Christmas this early makes sense in context.”
Stein said that since launching the campaign, Kmart has seen an uptick in its layaway registrations, although she couldn’t give out specific data. According to Crimson Hexagon data, Kmart’s layaway promotion has also been resonating online. The brand saw 35,000 mentions in September, with mentions of the layaway campaign and Christmas seeing spikes in discussion.
However, that doesn’t mean people were willing to ignore the prematurity of Kmart’s holiday campaign in September on social media. As people posted about the ads, the most frequently used hashtags accompanying the tweets showed disdain, including #wtf, #toosoon, #itsseptember and #no.