I was a little annoyed at the mall last week
-- and not just because I was at the mall to begin with, but also because I realized Macy's already had its holiday decorations up.
A quick look at the calendar offers a reason to forgive them, or at least understand the impetus. It turns out that in 2019, we have the shortest possible holiday shopping season.
If you run the clock from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Day, each year the holiday shopping season can last anywhere between 25 and 31 days in the United States. The variable placement of Thanksgiving each year is the culprit, since the fourth Thursday of November can run anywhere from November 22 to November 28.
This year, it's November 28, so the shopping season is six days shorter than a year ago (and the shortest since 2013). Retailers are adapting:
A few examples:
- Walmart announced Wednesday it's starting its holiday sales this Friday, October 25, earlier than ever.
- Best Buy announced it's rolling out free next-day delivery, available to 99 percent of customers for the holidays, competing with similar offerings from Amazon, Walmart and Target.
- Target says it's going to spend an additional $50 million to increase training and hours and employees during the season -- meaning more employees on duty each day during the shortened season.
About 20 percent of all U.S. retail spending comes between those 25 to 31 days each year, with higher percentages for more seasonal products, like toys, games and hobby sales, according to the National Retail Federation
The group also says it expect sales to be up between 3.8 and 4.2 percent over last year, despite the short season. Another study by Coresight Research similarly anticipates a 4 percent bump over last year.
If you're in a retail consumer business, I'm going to assume most of this isn't news to you. So, consider this a sort of inter-industry group hug, as those of us with other kinds of businesses appreciate the challenge you're facing in 2019.
Personally, I love Thanksgiving. It's probably my favorite holiday of the year, at least in terms of what we actually spend our time doing.
But from a business and economic perspective, it's kind of crazy that we've managed to peg the start of one of our most important annual retail cycles to a period of time with a variable start date but a fixed end date.
Oh, and apropos of nothing: only about 265 more days until Prime Day.