When Does the Christmas Holiday Sales Season Start?

Although it varies, Black Friday is still the standard

Couple with packages,shopping in city.
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There is no official start date for retailers to begin launching their sales. In fact, each year, different retailers set new standards to follow so the Christmas/holiday retail sales season is dynamic and continues to evolve.

As a rule of thumb, the unofficial kickoff event usually hovers around Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Some larger department stores experimented with launching holiday shopping sales on Thanksgiving Day and were met with a lot of backlash, mainly for not considering the needs of their employees.

So when should you start a holiday ? That depends on two things: The nature of your business and the market you serve

When and Why to Start Holiday Sales

Does starting sales earlier in the year have any benefits? That's hard to say on a broad, general business scale because each business and market is different. But there are some obvious drawbacks that do span multiple industries. First and foremost, pushing too hard is almost always a great way to turn-off potential buyers.

Few shoppers want to see a store decked out for the holidays before Halloween. Even the day after Halloween is just too soon for most shoppers and is more likely to lead to eye-rolling and irritation than pre-holiday sales.

If handled poorly, early holiday sales events can end up costing retailers. For instance, temporary or seasonal hires can end up costing more if a retailer needs to hire earlier in the season.

And space that could be used to sell other items is taken up with Christmas items. If the Christmas items are not selling, that's a waste of potentially valuable retail space.

Which Businesses Do Well With Holiday Sales?

There are many types of products and services that people need to plan for or purchase long in advance of the holidays. Examples include travel services, wedding arrangements, and big-ticket items like new cars. Offering a "Christmas in July" sale for cars, trucks, and similar items make sense. Offering "Christmas in July" sales for winter season clothing and ice skates may not.

Some folks only shop towards the end of the year when they get their annual Christmas bonuses. If your market does not have money to spend now, consider offering a layaway plan, where shoppers can pay off a large purchase over a few weeks.

If you live in a cold climate where people associate the snap in the air with the ushering in of the holidays, you may find it easier to market winter items earlier in the year than you would in Florida or Southern California where people are less likely to be thinking scarves, mittens, and hats.

Do What's Best for Your Business

Perhaps the best holiday sales tip for all business owners is not to become a lemming. It is always wise to study what the competition is doing but just because someone else started their holiday sales campaigns in October does not mean you should automatically do it too. 

And don't forget, there are some people who do not shop at all until after the holidays to take advantage of those after-Christmas sales. Many people are more flush with cash and likely to have lighter work schedules allowing them to spend more time shopping than they were before the holidays.