It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas: Did Kmart Go Too Far By Airing A Holiday Ad In September?

September 24, 2013  |  

I was watching TV recently and suddenly heard the familiar tinkle of the “Nutcracker Ballet.” Then a gingerbread man appeared. He was a lightly-toasted golden brown with white frosting for buttons. I stared at the commercial—fixated, but perplexed. Something was wrong with this picture.

There was no Christmas tree in my living room. There were no homes decorated in beautiful Christmas light displays. The air lacked the bitter cold that defined a New York winter holiday season. It was only September—nearly three months before Christmas and Kmart already launched an ad.

“Don’t let the holidays sneak up on you,” the Kmart commercial warned. “Shop early with Kmart’s free layaway! ….Kmart. Get in; Get more Christmas!”

Kmart’s Christmas-in-September marketing scheme is the earliest holiday commercial in history; stores typically wait until October to air Christmas ads. Alarmed by the premature commercial, many not-so-pleased consumers vented their frustrations on Kmart’s Facebook page.  “What happened to Halloween and thanksgiving? Stop with the Christmas commercials ALREADY!!” one commenter said.

Other consumers supported Kmart’s untimely gingerbread man commercial:

“1st of all… halloween isn’t a holiday. If so my job owes me 17 yrs worth of off days & pay. 2nd of all…… It’s never too early to start your shopping or preparation for Christmas, so Kmart, you guys are on point with your reminding us that it will be here b4 we know it and then we’ll be scrambling around like crazy people!”Christinia Jennings said.

One of our Facebook commenters said much the same thing this morning, noting that items like hats and scarves can be had for as little as 50 cents in the off season.

While the holidays bring warm thoughts of hot chocolate, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Home Alone, Christmas also means scraping for change as we scramble through a labyrinth of cluttered aisles to purchase gifts for family members, friends, and “Secret Santas.” Christmas has morphed into a season of “stuff”—a money-grubbing holiday that leaves us too penniless to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Those who disapprove of Kmart’s commercial are terrified of a further dilution of the “true meaning” of Christmas. Consumers who loved the ad, on the other hand, see Kmart’s layaway commercial as a way to combat the financial stresses the holidays bring.

But there is a consensus between both sides: It’s a business. Kmart is purposely extending the Christmas season. But some customers—such as the unemployed—would seemingly benefit from the retailer’s Christmas-in-September layaway marketing ploy. Paying slowly over time rather than spending a large chunk of money at once during the few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve isn’t an option for some people.

“Yes, I’m one of those moms that spends a lot less on winter coats, sweaters, and other winter gear by shopping early,” said one blogger, a mother of four, who starts her  holiday shopping in August. “I avoid a lot of stress by starting my Christmas shopping early, and I know my bank account thanks me. Let’s face it spending $500 – $1000 on Christmas gifts is often hard to do at once, but spaced over several months it can be accomplished comfortably.”

Many people think the Kmart jumped the gun. According to a Variety poll that asked whether it’s too soon, 62 percent said “Yes! It’s only September!” and 38 percent didn’t mind at all. Last year, ABC News says Target aired the earliest ad on October 7 . But it looks like Kmart took things a little too far. Even if the ads aren’t running early, it’s clear that people have Christmas on their minds as soon as the leaves turn.

We took a quick look around and can’t find the Kmart ad anywhere, so it looks like the retailer took it down. But they made their point.

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