Monday, October 1, 2012

Corduroys for Christmas 2012

I didn’t see them myself, but I heard reports of the holiday-season displays coming out of the boxes over the weekend. Today is October 1, the day when U.S. retailers traditionally begin showing Christmas-themed merchandise, even though they don’t expect sales to reach significant volume until after Election Day, which this year is November 6. One marketing theory that drives this strategy is that people get used to seeing the holiday merchandise before they start buying it.

I wish I could say this looks like a more favorable Christmas shopping season, but instead, at this point, it looks as if retailers are overconfident again this year. Some signs of this:

  • The big product push for Christmas 2012: corduroys. Gap, Target, and others are betting that shoppers are so sick of practical clothing that they are ready to pay jeans-like prices for something childish, frivolous, and uncomfortable. They make it sound like a good theory.
  • Larger seasonal hiring plans than in any of the last five years. Estimates and announcements at this stage aren’t necessarily accurate, but we may be looking at more than 1 million temporary retail jobs.
  • Retail analysts are brushing off this year’s decline in consumer electronics, saying that lack of interest won’t carry over to the gift-giving season. Yet no one really knows why electronics have lost their shine, so there doesn’t seem to be a basis for predicting a sudden comeback.

I could go on, but — $100 million in corduroy inventories? It just doesn’t sound like this is retail’s comeback year.